Following a 2011 season that saw Jared Mitchell's on-base percentage plummet to just north of .300, the former first-round pick's prospect status was tenuous. A good showing in spring training wasn't imperative, but it was important. And Mitchell certainly got 2012 off on the right foot, picking up seven hits in 21 Cactus League at-bats while displaying a trust in his ankle that hadn't been seen in two years.
However, Mitchell did strike out seven times and didn't draw a walk this spring. Normally, that'd be concerning. And maybe it still is, especially the strikeouts. But the lack of walks does have an explanation.
"Quite frankly, we needed to see him being more aggressive," White Sox director of player development Buddy Bell said Friday. "I think he's probably taking that to a different level than what we wanted, but we really wanted him to be more aggressive early in the count. He got himself in a lot of 0-2 and 1-2 situations last year and basically he was just being a little too sensitive about the strikezone."
The strategy, for now, worked. Mitchell appeared to clear his head of any in-between thoughts, going up with an aggressive mindset and swinging his way to some good results. But it's not a strategy that'll lead to sustainable success -- which Bell somewhat hinted at in that quote above.
Mitchell will have to reel in that aggressiveness, but maybe not to the point of the near-10 percent walk rate he had last year. Strikeouts still may be an issue, but that's not unexpected given Mitchell's relative lack of experience.
The 23-year-old will likely begin the season with either Single-A Winston-Salem or Double-A Birmingham -- Bell said the Sox are still deciding on the destination. Perhaps he could use a repeat with Winston-Salem, but if Bell's as confident in Mitchell as he says, perhaps an aggressive minor league placement will be the case.
For the full transcript of Bell's conference call, head on over to South Side Sox.