With healthy discussion surrounding whether or not Domonic Brown and/or Darin Ruf can be everyday Major Leaguers and, in turn, whether the Phillies should seek more outfield help, many, including myself, have noted that the Phillies outfield picture is incredibly heavy in quantity but low on quality. The Phillies, assuming Brown and Ruf are on the 25-man roster, sit with six outfielders on their roster; barring John Mayberry being traded or designated for assignment, Laynce Nix being cut, Ender Inciarte being offered back to Arizona, or Ruf starting the year in Triple-A, there is very little wiggle room.
While there is a plethora of options, none of those options are particularly appealing to the Phillies. After all, Mayberry does hit lefties well, cutting Nix would be the equivalent of burning $1.35 million in a barrel, the last Rule-5 pick the Phillies tried to return was Shane Victorino and after sticking by Michael Martinez, they’ll likely keep Inciarte around, and Ruf, at age 26, is suddenly at an unexpected but pretty exciting “put up or shut up” moment.
A few weeks ago, December 13 to be exact, the Phillies quietly added a few players their minor league ranks. Among the group signed were catchers John Suomi and Justin Dalles. Suomi spent all of last season in Lehigh Valley, spending time at DH and behind the plate. Suomi, 31, put up a .265/.311/.393 with four home runs in 212 PA for the ‘Pigs and got snubbed in favor of Steven Lerud when the Phillies needed a fourth catcher. Dalles, 24, is a former University of South Carolina Gamecock who was drafted four times by four different clubs. Dalles comes from the Baltimore Orioles organization, where current Phillies director of scouting Joe Jordan drafted him in the sixth round of the 2009 MLB Draft. Jordan described Dalles as an “average defender” with “an above average arm” and a bat that could start at the Major League level. Dalles has been a very slow riser and has not made it past High-A ball; he has a career minor league line of .229/.292/.332. The third player added that day was outfielder Jermaine Mitchell.
How do the first two paragraphs tie together? Over the last few days, maybe even over the last week or so, Phillies fans on Twitter have began to talk about Mitchell. Some have been getting excited about Mitchell, some even going so far as to think is better than the six outfielders, and Tyson Gillies. To that, I say, hold your horses.
While some are getting aggressive with their projections of Brown or Ruf, or even Ben Revere, there is nothing in Mitchell’s offensive profile that indicates he’s capable of cracking the Phillies roster at any point in 2013. Mitchell turned 28 this passed November and struggled last year in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League with the A’s Triple-A affiliate Sacramento just a year after putting up a .302/.401/.453 line with five HRs in 275 PA there. Mitchell struggled in High-A twice before conquering it in his third trip once he was 25 followed by conquering Double-A after two trips at age 26. At age 27 last year, Mitchell struggled in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, posting a paltry .252/.345/.386 line with six home runs in 474 trips to the plate.
This isn’t meant to be a smear on Mitchell, as he has a number of good qualities. Mitchell’s greatest tool has always been speed, recognized multiple times by Baseball America on their prospect lists as the A’s Fastest Baserunner, but judging by his Minor League stolen base success rate, 67.29%, he has not been able to harness that ability for the greater good. Baseball America also listed a 27-year old Mitchell as the A’s Defensive Outfielder last year and ranked him as their seventh best prospect, one ahead of Michael Taylor. It is worth noting, the A’s system was ranked seventh overall by FanGraphs last year. Unfortunately, Mitchell laid quite an egg last year, and the A’s, who are very deep with outfield talent at the Major and Minor League level, quietly let Mitchell elect free agency and sign with the Phillies.
With all of that said, Mitchell is a nice project piece at Triple-A Lehigh Valley but shouldn’t be seen as anything more unless he goes on quite a tear. Mitchell could turn around and put up a line closer to his 2011 Triple-A line but would probably see something close to a Jason Pridie-like call-up if anything. Mitchell is worth a shot as an emergency outfielder, but I have a feeling that the Phillies would be more likely to play Inciarte or call up Gillies before Mitchell sees the field.