6-1 182 BR TR
Born- February 15, 1985 in Rome, Georgia
Obtained- Selected in 15th round of 2003 draft
Mitchell's journey through the baseball wilderness began at shortstop for Cartersville, Georgia, High when he was drafted in the 15th round in 2003, and playing where high school teams almost always place their best athlete. Sometimes, though, those good enough to get a chance professionally don't have the skills to stay at that demanding spot in their career.
That was true in the case of Mitchell; he seemed to have the arm strength and the coordination but he didn't possess the required range for short. So, his first stop as a pro was third. He did well enough in the field there but other things began to factor in.
The first thing was the signing of Andy LaRoche, Blake DeWitt and later, Josh Bell -- all third baseman and all more likely prospects than Mitchell, particularly because of his perceived lack of power -- 15 home runs in his first three seasons and 13 of them in 2005.
Third base has evolved into a power position so the Dodgers began tinkering with his swing in order to get more juice in his bat while at the same time also moving him around the diamond in search of a likely spot.
In 2005 at Ogden, loaded up with a new power stroke, knocking 13 out of the yard. Meanwhile, he tried some second base as well as first. He wanted a shot at the outfield but they felt he didn't have enough speed to be useful out there. So he kept winding up back at third.
In 2006 he whacked 19 homers - plus 40 doubles - so they're satisfied that the power problem has been solved. However, there was this position thing so they had another idea. Thus, the fall in the Arizona Instructional League found him one of a trio being taught the rudiments of catching. Lucas May and Carlos Santana were the others.
May and Santana seemed to catch on, no pun intended, but Russell didn't. So, at the start of spring training in 2007 he was back at third. Not for all that long, though.
DeWitt had been playing second but they decided to move him back to third and shove him back from Jacksonville to Inland Empire at the same time. That blocked Russell there. However, that same team lacked a first baseman so he was sent across the diamond.
He logged 19 games at the hot corner and 102 at first base. But then, moving up to Jacksonville in 2008 he played 52 at first base and 88 at his old stomping grounds, third base.
He seems to be handling bat part of the equation well enough, slugging 22 homers and knocking in 82 runs in 2007 and hitting 16 dingers and collecting 75 ribbies in 2008. He played well enough to be added to the 40-man roster but the club ultimately did not make the move.
He's been a wanderer throughout his professional career, seeing action with six different Dodgers' affiliates in his first six years, making stops with the Gulf Coast Dodgers, Ogden, Columbus, Vero Beach, Inland Empire and Jacksonville.
"I think driving the ball to left-center," Mitchell said describing his strength as a player. "Hitting the ball gap-to-gap I think my biggest strength. I play pretty good defense too, but really I just try to drive the ball gap to gap."
"I'm working in the cages on hitting to right-field, right-center," Mitchell told LADugout.com. "It is something I've struggled with, and it is something I'm working on right now. It is getting better everyday, but that's what I'm working on the most."
While working on hitting more to the right side of the field, his coaches feel he must improve another aspect of his game, an aspect that has lead to 65 strikeouts.
"Just for me he needs to work on plate discipline," managers Travis Barbary said in 2005. "Just like last night, he struck out three times, and all three times he chased balls that were up and out of the strike zone."
And that advice is still good. In his seven seasons he has a poor .312 on-base percentage (466 walks in just over 2,700 plate appearances). Once he learns better plate discipline, one can expect him to become a more valuable commodity.
Mitchell was sent to the Arizona Fall League as a catcher, but it was just a way the Dodgers could get him on the club since a catcher's slot was open but he didn't see an inning behind the plate.
As a member of the "taxi-squad" he was eligible to play only two days a week and he made good use of them, hitting .364 (8-for-22). "I caught some bullpens on the side, but when I got into a game it was at first or third."
Dodgers Assistant General Manager Logan White said, "I look at him as a kind of a Kevin Millar sort of guy. He's a gamer, a hard-nosed kind of player. He loved to play the game, a throwback sort of player, and he doesn't care what he looks like out there. He's quiet sort of hitter, but a good hitter."
And if everything was equal, where would he like to play?
"I enjoy playing the hot corner," he said. "It just seems like you're in the game at all times. I started playing first base last year a little bit, but I like to be in on the action."
Originally a shortstop, then a catcher and is equally at home at first, second and third. He hit well at the AA level last year and has developed some pretty good power. Sounds like a valuable player to have around. He will probably get a shot at Albuquerque in 2009.
Russell Mitchell Year team ave obp ops gm ab r h 2b 3b hr bi sb 2003 GCLg .338 .427 .933 26 77 13 26 8 1 1 9 2 2004 Colm .222 .250 .536 63 209 24 32 12 1 0 14 2 VBch .249 .266 .574 46 169 12 42 8 1 0 17 1 2005 Ogden .289 .358 .869 69 270 54 78 19 1 13 54 1 VBch .303 .333 .757 13 33 5 10 1 0 1 4 0 Jack .200 .200 .600 3 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 2006 Colm .239 .288 .713 105 435 71 104 32 2 15 75 3 VBch .277 .315 .833 22 83 12 23 8 0 4 16 1 2007 IEmp .270 .324 .812 126 488 81 132 32 4 22 82 5 2008 Jack .264 .323 .748 133 485 65 128 22 4 16 75 8 Totals .260 .312 .744 606 2254 338 586 143 14 72 349 25