When players talk about being "in the groove," they're basically describing the first two weeks of Calvin Mitchell's 2018 season.
The No. 16 Pirates prospect tripled and equaled career highs with four hits and four RBIs as Class A West Virginia rolled past Asheville, 13-2, at Appalachian Power Park on Saturday. The 19-year-old outfielder has been kept off base once in his first 16 games while collecting a hit in 14 of those contests. His four-hit performance brought his slash line to .371/.420/.677 in 62 at-bats.
"I think I can attribute most of my early success to staying really calm in the box," Mitchell said after his fourth straight multi-hit performance. "Just making sure I'm not being too quick to the baseball and seeing it right out of the pitcher's hand."
Gameday box score
Mitchell came into Saturday's game with three straight multi-hit efforts and eight in his last nine overall. The San Diego native wasted no time extending that streak, singling to right in the bottom of the first inning and again in the third to plate a run. He would score on a double by No. 26 prospect Mason Martin during the Power's four-run frame.
He ripped an RBI triple to right in the sixth and drove in another run with a single to center in the seventh. Batting with the bases loaded in the eighth and looking for a career-high fifth hit, he settled for his fourth RBI when he reached on a fielding error by Asheville first baseman Sean Bouchard.
"At that point of the game, I'm still sticking with my process. I always stick with the process," Mitchell said. "I go up there and take each at-bat individually. I'm not thinking of anything in that spot other than getting the barrel of the bat on the ball and scoring a few runs for the team."
He opened the season 6-for-22 (.273) with two extra-base hits and four RBIs through his first seven games and has gone on a 17-for-40 (.425) tear in nine games since, which includes eight extra-base knocks and 11 RBIs. His 15 total RBIs are second in the South Atlantic League to second-ranked Nationals prospect Juan Soto, who has driven in 21 for Hagerstown.
Selected in the second round of last year's Draft out of Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, Mitchell was sent to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League where he hit safely in eight of his first 12 games and batted .245/.351/.352 with 13 extra-base hits across 43 games. He finished his professional debut on a high note, batting .308 while hitting safely in six of his last seven to end 2017. Considering he just turned 19 on March 8, his promotion past Rookie-level Bristol and straight to the South Atlantic League was aggressive, but also a challenge he was excited for.
"I was a little surprised," Mitchell explained. "But I was also very grateful for the Pirates' belief in me to succeed at this level. I spent most, if not all, of my offseason in Florida at the Pirates' training facility in Bradenton. I wanted to dedicate all my time to really getting better. But I'm just happy to be here and happy to be contributing. Hopefully, I can continue to grow as a player and keep hitting well. I look forward to facing some adversity and being able to come out of it as the season progresses."
The second through fifth spots in the Power's order -- Mitchell, Martin, No. 14 prospect Oneil Cruz and No. 26 Dylan Busby -- combined for nine hits -- including a homer -- 11 RBIs and four runs scored.
West Virginia starter Braeden Ogle (2-0) allowed one run and scattered six hits in six innings. Pittsburgh's No. 28 prospect walked three and struck out a career-high eight en route to his second straight win.
Asheville's Taylor Snyder went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and an RBI.