After a serious ankle injury kept Chicago White Sox outfield prospect Jared Mitchell off the field for the 2010 minor league season, he’s ready to return to the fast track.
Mitchell, part of national championship teams in baseball and football at Louisiana State, is playing center field for the Winston-Salem Dash in high Class A. He might have skipped that level if he hadn’t torn a tendon in his left ankle while making a catch against the wall in a major league spring training game last March.
Instead of finishing last season at Class AA or above, Mitchell had to wait to face upper-level pitching until he was at less than full speed in the Arizona Fall League. He worked out this offseason in Baton Rouge, La., with fellow minor leaguers and former LSU teammates D.J. LeMahieu (Cubs), Sean Ochinko (Blue Jays) and Ryan Schimpf (Blue Jays). It took almost until the start of this year’s spring training for Mitchell to feel healthy.
“Ankle’s fine, everything’s 100 percent,” Mitchell said Monday night after Winston-Salem’s road win over the Potomac Nationals. “The best part is just being back out there every day, getting a chance to compete. It’s something I’ve been doing my whole life, so not being able to compete for a year, you miss it.
“Now there’s no days off. That’s just different; that’s what you’ve got to get used to.”
With former Stanford baseball and football player Kenny Williams as general manager, it’s no surprise the White Sox have an affinity for two-sport athletes. Williams was vice president of player development when the club took Joe Borchard, another Stanford dual sport athlete, 12th overall in 2000. Borchard, now in independent ball, has a .205 batting average in 716 major league at-bats, so the transition to strictly baseball isn’t always easy.
Mitchell, the 23rd pick in the 2009 draft and a former wide receiver, is the organization’s No. 4 prospect according to Baseball America, which also named him the system’s best athlete and projected him as Chicago’s starting left fielder in 2014. He has started 4 for 18 (.222) with a home run and four RBI, and his team is scheduled to wrap up its series in Woodbridge with a doubleheader Wednesday night.
Winston-Salem Manager Julio Vinas says Mitchell has all the tools to stay in center field long-term. The 22-year-old left-handed hitter is also progressing at the plate.
“He’s a smart kid, and he’s picking up on all the instruction [batting coach Rob Sasser] and the staff have given him,” Vinas said. “He’s going to have his bumps and bruises, but he’s making good adjustments, and defensively he’s doing a nice job for us. He’s an incredible athlete, but he wants to play baseball and he’s devoted to baseball.”