P2Daily: Cal Mitchell Continued Minor League Progression, Is The Majors Next?

When it is all said and done, if you can get through a minor league season healthy, and find a way to improve, chances are you are doing something right.

Cal Mitchell doesn’t always post the most eye popping numbers, but there is no denying that the outfielder has improved each year since being drafted by the Pirates.

After a successful 2021 season with the Altoona Curve, he started this past season in Triple-A with the Indianapolis Indians. He’d eventually made his major league debut, and played in 69 games with the Pirates. He came through with some big hits but mostly struggled, slashing .226/.286/.349 with five home runs and 17 RBI.

While his debut in the majors didn’t go well, he tore up Triple-A pitching while with Indianapolis. Mitchell hit .339/.391/.547 in 63 games, and his batting average was the best in the entire Pirates minor leagues among those who qualified, according to Baseball Reference’s criteria.

He hit nine home runs in around 250 minor league at-bats, and at that pace seemed on his way to break his previous career high of 15. When combining his major league home runs, he comes one short of that total.

Mitchell has improved each year, and if continues that trend, seeing that he mastered Triple-A, the next step would be to improve at the major league level.

He closed the season out fairly strong, slashing .267/.360/.373 with a home run and five doubles in 86 plate appearances after September till the end of the year. If he can carry that finish into next year, it could very well be another season of improvement for Mitchell, this time being in the majors.

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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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Traditional 1b is supposed to be a power bat. I know others are saying Mitchell to 1st. but, knowing we need a big bat somewhere in the lineup shouldn’t they look to try and bring in a legit 1st baseman? Hayes already has shown over the last two years he is not a power bat as well. Mitchell may turn out to be a 4th outfielder DH type who hopefully hits enough to get on base to help out the team.


Is it surprising that Cal Mitchell has a max throwing velocity of more than 88mph?

I would not have guessed that from the comments below.



On their OF leaderboard (https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/leaderboard/arm-strength?year=2022&minThrows=100&pos=arm_of&team= ), Mitchell ranks 126th and Gamel 120th; i.e., essentially the same and they appear to be comparable in other metrics too (in percent outs converted, for example, Gamel was 100th and Mitchell 119th) yet the perception seemed to be that Gamel was a much stronger defender.

Last edited 3 months ago by TNBucs

I saw that and did a double take. By the eye test, he lacks both distance and velocity, but maybe it’s the weakest of those throws that stick in the mind.

In a Fangraphs’ article this morning, it was indicated that the “average” velo is actually an average of the highest tier (20%?). Which makes sense, since plenty of balls hit to an outfielder pose no threat to turn into doubles, so fielders can take it easy on the throw back to the infield.

Maybe just like his speed (+1.1 baserunning runs above average), it shows up when he needs it to, but otherwise his second gear is pretty low.


Not sure if you’re referring to this FG article, but Mitchell’s arm is pretty weak compared to other OFers (albeit better than Greg Allen’s).


Reynolds is Bucs top OF arm at 89.5.

Surprised that Hayes is below MLB average for 3b at 82 (average is 85.7).


I was referring to the Fangraphs article you linked on background and Statcast for Mitchell specifically. He’s 126th/155 for average velo – which is bad – but I was kind of surprised there were nearly 30 outfielders with weaker arms.


I liked his progression with the bat but he leaves a lot to be desired when he plays the outfield.


There are worse things than being a good bench bat/spot starter on a contender. Which is what I think is Cal’s likely career path in Pittsburgh.

Hope he proves he deserves a starting spot and Pirates prove they are contenders in next year or two.


Don’t you think he’d get more ABs if his defense was better? He’s not a bad outfielder, probably average overall, but with what appears to be a below average arm. He was replaced for better defense multiple times this year so clearly missed those ABs. It sure seems to me that if they are considering moving any of their outfielders to first base he would be the most logical choice. It could work out well for everyone if he’s willing and can learn to do it. There’s certainly no real competition at the moment.


He is below average. I a, just opting that he can hit enough to be a good DH. But, the fact that he was left available in the Rule V draft says a lot. Appears to be a AAAA player.


BTW it says a lot that he was added to the 40-man and major league roster in May, DESPITE being left available for R5!


Great point!


Gonna disagree with you there. At 23, Mitchell isn’t nearly a finished product. He was a bit unlucky with his batted balls in the first half; that started to even out in the second half. He put up a 96 wRC+ in the second half after a 54 in the first half – and that second half included a dreadful August slump where he went 1 for 19.

There are good reasons to not write him off. I think his defense (particularly his arm) and lack of an outstanding secondary tool (power/walks/speed) make him an unlikely starter, but he’s definitely more rosterable than your typical Quad A guy.


I am not writing him off. But a 96 wRC+ is nothing to write home about for a defensively challenged fielder. Perhaps his work at first base this offseason will be fruitful. And, hopefully his bat will Improve with age.


I hear what you’re saying Lee. To counter that, I think a 96 wRC+ outfielder with below average defense is still preferable to a 96 wRC+ first baseman, which is basically Colin Moran. I was on the Cal to 1B train for a hot minute too, but the more I look at it, the less it fits. They really need to get a legitimate 110-120 wRC+ bat at the position rather than look to fill it with spare parts. In all likelihood, Cal isn’t that. He’s a contact-oriented, occasionally stings the ball, can take an extra base here and there guy, but he’s probably batting 7th or lower in a competent lineup.

BTW, Pittsburgh put up a league-worst 59 wRC+ at the position this year. Second worst? Houston, 76. That’s an ipecac number for you.

And have you heard/read anywhere that he specifically is getting instruction at 1B this offseason? I missed it if that was a thing.

The two things I think of with respect to Cal:

1) It’s all about quality of contact and swing decisions for Cal. He’s got below average (but not super low) exit velocities, but better than average contact rates, so it’s going to come down to swinging at the pitches he can do something with and fouling off/not swinging at the ones he can’t. The hope is that comes with practice, and the hope behind that hope is he started to show some of that in the 2nd half.

2) in an admittedly small sample of 1/2 season, far less than defensive metrics need to stabilize, he nevertheless grades out as close to average in range and error rate; it’s the arm that drags him down. I would humbly suggest RF is not the right corner for him. LF at home is a lot more room to cover, but it’s also an easier shot to 3B and home (and the cutoff man).


Colin Moran is a low bar, lol. As I said, we can only hope. 🙂 🙂


They have an entire offseason to go find the 2023 version of Greg Allen, Jack Marisnick, or Josh Van Meter yet. Giving meaningful AB’s to someone who could improve or be productive just somehow seems counter-productive.


23 years old, his swing seems short, simple, quiet. I would assume he can add more power by continuing to get stronger in the gym. AAA strike out rate 14.6% and in the MLB is was 22.4%. L/R splits were ok. So a good bit to be hopeful on.


Michael brantley lite, im calling it

b mcferren

beat me to it

checkout Brantley’s numbers in the first four years


Interesting. Brantley’s and Mitchell’s age-23 seasons were nearly identical with one big exception being K rates, but K’s are up in general so no surprise there. If Mitchell can put up an OPS about .700 next year, he’ll be on the Brantley track (i.e., he doesn’t need to suddenly put up really big numbers to be on that track). The Pirates, though, don’t seem as committed to him as Cleveland was to Brantley. When Brantley was called up the second time in his age-23 season he played nearly everyday. Perhaps it was those consistent PAs that allowed him to develop despite early struggles.


Mitchell had 470 chances in AAA playing all 3 OF positions with 0 errors, and 428 chances in MLB with only 2 errors. His chances in 2023 will depend a lot upon whether a CF prospect steps up. The Pirates would like to give Reynolds more innings in LF, and Suwinski impressed in 2022.

Regardless, Mitchell has an excellent bat and will definitely be in the picture in the OF at the MLB level in 2023.


Many of us were calling for Mitchell to have been recalled much sooner to take Gamel’s place in the lineup, though Gamel had a few defenders on here. Now Gamel is (hopefully) gone and we’re left wondering what if Mitchell had gotten another 60 PAs or so. From the time he was recalled (Sept. 2) he put up a .734 OPS and a WRC+ of 112.

A four OF rotation of Reynolds, Suwinski, Mitchell, and Andujar isn’t a bad way to start the season, especially if we bring in a good first baseman to compensate for Suwinski and Mitchell still adapting to MLB.


Hopefully he’ll progress next year into a solid #7 in the lineup


Has he also improved defensively each year and can we expect improvement that area as well in the majors?


Still only 23. I wouldn’t put it past him.


If he has improved each year defensively, I can’t imagine how bad his defense was when he started his professional career. His arm is unplayable and his ranging is too awkward to make up for it. I don’t see anywhere to put him but DH.

If he’s that good at working on his game, I hope he tries to learn first base this winter.


Definitely agree. We need a 1B so we should have a few guys learning it.


He’s a DH at best. Can he play 1b is what I’d find out.

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