Rewind to the summer of 2009. The Chicago White Sox were coming off their 2008 division title and were searching to infuse young talent into their system. Veterans Paul Konerko, Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye were beginning the last stretch of their careers, and the team was desperately looking to add athletic youngsters who could make an impact right away. The Sox continued to notice that their once promising center fielder Brian Anderson was a bust, so they set their sights on finding a replacement in the upcoming draft. With the 23rd pick, the team selected Jared Mitchell out of LSU. The multi-sport athlete, who also played football for the Tigers, chose to pursue a career in baseball.
Scouts raved about the raw talent that Mitchell possessed. Mitchell was a wizard with the bat, possessing a capability to hit to all fields. His speed was projected to cause havoc on the base paths for years to come. In the field, Mitchell was thought of as a potential Gold Glover. He skyrocketed up the White Sox’ top prospects list. After being drafted, Mitchell accumulated a .417 OBP. The future looked bright for him with the Sox until Spring Training of 2010.
Mitchell was playing center field for the Sox when a deep fly ball headed his way. As Mitchell ran back with the reckless abandonment that one expects from a former football player, he crashed into the left field wall while making the catch. The play would have been one of the highlights of Mitchell’s career if not for the fact that crashing into the wall resulted in him tearing a tendon in his left ankle. That one moment in time would change the course of Mitchell’s life forever.
Due to the injury, Mitchell missed the entire 2010 season. Feeling rejuvenated after grueling rehab, Mitchell entered 2011 filled with optimism. Throughout the year, however, he just was not the same player. At the plate he struggled, only hitting .222 with a .304 OBP. In the field Mitchell would not go after the ball like he used to. At the end of the season the consensus was that Mitchell’s struggles could just be chalked up to him having to regain his form after a major injury.
Heading into the 2012 season, Mitchell was still regarded as one of the top prospects in a horrendous White Sox system. There still was a glimmer of hope that he could turn into an All-Star caliber player. Unfortunately Mitchell bounced between AA and AAA recording an average of .237. He was seen as a future lead-off hitter for the big club but he couldn’t get on base in the minors. People started to lose patience with Mitchell. Still there were Sox fans who believed that all he needed was one above average year to prove himself. 2013 was thought to be that year.
Last season was the last straw for White Sox fans when it came to Mitchell. The center fielder recorded a slash of.167/.293/.257. Mitchell spent a majority of the season at AA Birmingham. Gone was the defense, hitting and base running that made White Sox fans drool three years earlier. The potential superstar turned into a mediocre minor leaguer. His ceiling was lowered from potential All-Star to pinch runner in the majors.
It is clear that Mitchell has not been the same player since his injury in 2010. Whether it be mental or physical, he has lost that edge that played a large part in him turning into a first-round draft pick. With a new wave of prospects coming through the system, Mitchell is in jeopardy of being pushed to the wayside. The Sox will continue to give him every chance possible to succeed. However, a team can only give a player so many opportunities before they send him on his way.