Phillies Prospect #42: Derrick Mitchell

When they drafted Derrick Mitchell, the Phillies had a few question marks around him. First, would he sign or go off to play at Michigan State? Second, could he hit? He signed and last season, started to hit, so things could go well for Mitchell. The only problem now is finding a place for him to play.

Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the 23rd round of the 2005 Draft.
Bats: R    Throws: R
Height: 6' 2"     Weight: 170 pounds
Birth Date: January 5, 1987
2008 Team(s): Lakewood
Position/Games: 2B (106), DH (8)
School: Paw Paw HS (Michigan)
Previous Rankings: 48

Why Mitchell jumped six spots: The downside to Derrick Mitchell has been his offense, but he has continued to show improvement with his offensive numbers as he moves up the ladder, dragging his average from .213 in 2005 to .251 this past season at Williamsport. No, he's not confused with Ted Williams, but he's showing improvement and that's what the Phillies were asking out of him. He weathered his first full-season league well and it could be interesting to see just how much better he can get.

Batting and Power: When he was drafted out of high school, the theory was that as Mitchell filled out, his power would develop quickly. While the progression hasn't necessarily been quick, much like with his average, Mitchell is showing progress and hit 11 home runs last season at Lakewood or one every 41.2 at bats (the South Atlantic League average was one every 49.4 at bats). The good news is that while his at bats doubled over the previous season, his strikeouts did not. The bad news is that neither did his walks; in fact, he walked just two more times this season than he did in 234 at bats less in 2007. If Mitchell could work pitchers better, his offense would improve.

Baserunning and Speed: While he doesn't have much speed, Mitchell showed himself to be a smart baserunner while he was with Williamsport in 2007. He's still pretty smart as a baserunner, but his work on stealing bases will have to be stressed since his success rate fell from 83% down to 60% last season. One reason is that he's trying to steal off more seasoned pitchers who disguise their moves better and have quicker deliveries to the plate. Catchers at higher levels are also more prepared to throw out base stealers. It's likely that Mitchell won't look to steal too many bases, especially as his power develops.

Defense: The Phillies have had trouble fitting Mitchell in defensively. He played shortstop in high school and had good range, but when he arrived in the pros, his lack of speed was exposed and his range dropped considerably. The Phillies thought that they could take advantage of his strong arm and moved him to third base in 2007, but that didn't work out real well either. So, for the third time in three seasons, Mitchell moved again in 2008 and played 106 games at second base. While he's not strong defensively at second, he's better than he was at short or third. Perhaps the outfield will be next, since he does have a strong, accurate arm. 

Projection: Right now, Mitchell is profiling as basically a utility infielder type of player. That's not to say that he couldn't improve on that profile, but for now, that's where he's headed. His offense is coming along nicely, but it's tough finding a spot for him to play where he's going to help defensively. In his minor league career, he's made 75 errors in 206 games and has a career fielding percentage of just .909, which won't get him to where he needs to be. Another position change is a possibility and if he could adjust, Mitchell may be able to quickly improve his stock with the organization. It's interesting that when he came out of the draft, his offense was the real concern, but now, his defense appears to be standing in his way more than anything. Don't count Mitchell out, because he's got a strong work ethic and isn't going to go away quietly. He's a gutsy player who just may take more time to develop and may be a difficult fit defensively, but he has enough talent to straighten everything out.

ETA: While he handled his first full-season league well, Mitchell is the type of player that could need a little more time at each level as he moves through the system. The step to Double-A could be especially difficult. He's still a number of years away - possibly something around 2013 - and need more work on his game, but there is enough there to like about Mitchell.

Derrick Mitchell's career stats

2005 GCL 1 9 .213 21 75 14 16 4 0 1 5 27 .274 .307
2006 GCL 2 12 .213 32 108 12 23 6 0 6 8 21 .286 .324
2007 Williamsport 6 27 .231 62 221 27 51 15 1 5 18 59 .312 .389
2008 Lakewood 11 62 .252 115 453 72 114 32 2 9 20 77 .294 .404
TOTALS 20 110 .238 230 857 125 204 57 3 21 51 184 .296 .382

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