After what can only be considered a lost season in 2013, Jared Mitchell had plenty to prove coming into the Arizona Fall League. After another quality performance Thursday afternoon, he's made an impressive case.
The No. 10 White Sox prospect homered in the eighth inning to break Glendale's scoreless tie with Peoria. He finished 2-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored in the Desert Dogs' 6-0 win on the road.
"It was kind of a rocky year to say the least," Mitchell said. "I want to come out here and just be consistent every day. I want to try to improve that part of the game because that's what it takes to be a big leaguer."
The left-handed hitter greeted Jonas Dufek, who had just entered in the eighth, by pulling the Javelinas right-hander's 90-mph fastball over the wall in right field. It was the second homer in nine AFL contests for the Glendale right fielder, who also went deep Oct. 9 in his first contest of the fall.
"They brought in a new pitcher, so I knew he wanted to get ahead and throw strikes," Mitchell said. "I got a pitch I can handle and was lucky enough to get good wood on it."
Mitchell's patience at the plate was also on display Thursday. He worked an eight-pitch plate appearance off Peoria starter Brandon Maurer before singling in the game's opening at-bat. (He later was caught stealing.) He saw seven pitches before walking to open the fourth and took a free pass again in the ninth. Mitchell came around to score on a missed catch error by pitcher Alex Sogard as part of a five-run final frame.
Mitchell now ranks among league leaders in walks (eight, tied for fourth) and OBP (.472, fourth). He's batting .308 after the big performance with a .538 slugging percentage and 1.011 OPS through nine games.
"It's early, there's a lot of time left and I think I can do a lot better," he said. "But I think I've done pretty well so far. I guess you can say my main goal is to take whatever you've done the day before and build off it if it's good and if it's bad, erase it. That's what I'm trying to do out here."
The early returns are encouraging for the 25-year-old outfielder who struggled for most of the 2013 season. He began the year with Triple-A Charlotte, but batted just .132 with 27 strikeouts in 53 at-bats over 14 games before he was sent back to Double-A Birmingham.
An oblique injury sidelined him for most of May, and even upon his return to the Southern League, he continued to struggle at the plate. Mitchell remained with the Barons the rest of the way and finished with just a .174/.297/.275 slash line, five homers, two triples and six doubles and 23 RBIs in 76 Double-A contests. If nothing else, Mitchell showed an impressive eye at the plate with walk rates of 14.1 and 15.4 percent at Double-A and Triple-A respectively.
Mitchell's success thus far also represents an improvement over his last spell through the Fall League. He missed all of the 2010 Minor League season after undergoing ankle surgery in the spring and played for Peoria in October and November, when he put up a .163/.239/.200 line with a triple, a double and two RBIs in 24 games. The 2009 first-round pick was named an AFL Rising Star following that campaign.
Danny Black (Marlins) added some insurance for Glendale with a two-RBI single as part of the five-run ninth. Max Kepler (Twins) finished 2-for-4 with a double and was the only player on either squad beside Mitchell to have a multi-hit game.
Fellow White Sox farmhand Stephen McCray allowed just one hit over four innings for the Desert Dogs. The right-hander hasn't allowed a run over 10 2/3 innings (three starts) for Glendale.
"He did well, he threw the ball well and controlled the zone," Mitchell said of the starter. "He threw all his pitches where he wanted them. When he's doing that, he's lights-out because it's tough to square balls up against him. In his last two outings, he's done that well."
Mariners right-hander Brandon Maurer enjoyed his first scoreless AFL outing, scattering two hits and a walk over his four frames. The 6-foot-5 hurler lowered his AFL ERA to 3.72.