Dodgers Prospect #29 - Russ Mitchell

Those who had written Russ Mitchell off apparently had forgotten who they were dealing with. Drafted in 2003 out of high school as a shortstop, he has played the corner spots in both the outfield and infield slots and had displayed a solid bat throughout. His improvement in the second half of the 2009 season kick-started his career and makes him our prospect #27.

For most of his Dodgers career, he has been a man without a position and Mitchell's seventh season found him not only playing on the corners of the field, but he also spent much of the second half at second base.

Mitchell was a shortstop at Cartersville, Ga., High when he was drafted in the 15th round in 2003. Shortstop is where high school teams almost always place their best athlete but often they don't have the skills to stay at that demanding spot in their career and that was the case with Mitchell.

Hs first stop as a pro was third. He did well enough but suddenly, the Dodgers were up to their eyebrows in third base prospects: Andy LaRoche, Blake DeWitt and Josh Bell. All seemed more likely prospects than Mitchell, particularly because there was another disturbing issue.

In his first three years, Russ whacked exactly one home run. That was as a rookie with the Gulf Coast team. Third is a position where some pop is a requisite so a couple of more things happened. They began tinkering with his swing in order to get more juice in his bat while at the same time began moving him around the diamond in search of a likely spot.

In 2005 at Ogden he loaded up at the plate, knocking 13 out of the yard. Meanwhile, he tried some second base as well as first. He himself 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.

Last year he racked up 19 homers - plus 40 doubles - so they're satisfied that 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 he was back at third . Not for all that long, though. That old position shuffle was on again.

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.

Then in 2009, playing again in Double A, this time with Chattanooga, he was hitting .208 with nine home runs at the all-star break. Then, re-inventing himself at mid-season, he hit .297 over the second half, to finish with a .241 average. <>br>
His progress continued into the Arizona Fall League. Playing for the pennant-winning Peoria Javelinas, Mitchell batted .319 with 30 hits inn 25 games, five home runs, 25 runs batted in (third in the league), a .396 on-base percentage and a 1.003 on-base plus slugging. The performance earned him a AFL player of the week honor.

"The kid's a gamer," said farm director De Jon Watson, who compares Mitchell's overall skills to Kevin Millar's. "He'll come into spring training competing for a spot at the next level. It's always nice to see a young player step up and perform to his ability."

Describing his strength as a player, Mitchell says: "I think driving the ball to left-center. 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 added. "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."

His coaches feel he must improve another aspect of his game, an aspect that has lead to 65 strikeouts. "He needs to work on plate discipline," managers Travis Barbary said in 2005. And that advice is still good. In his eight 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.

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 like to be in on the action."

He will probably get a shot at Albuquerque in 2009 and if he can maintain his second half numbers, he could get a shot at The Show.

6-1 182 BR TR
Born- February 15, 1985 in Rome, Georgia
Obtained- Selected in 15th round of 2003 draft

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
2009   Chatt   .241  .298  .703  131 456   63 110  30  3  13  63   4
 Totals	       .257  .313  .740  737 2995 401 696 173 17  85 412  29