The Trenton Thunder will begin their quest to defend their 2013 Eastern League title this Thursday evening at Arm & Hammer Park against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The 25-man roster has been set, the line-up is almost in place, and the rotation is filled. Taking the mound to kick off the Thunder’s 2014 season is Bryan Mitchell.
It’s an interesting choice by skipper Tony Franklin. Mitchell, who was invited to Tampa this spring as part of the 40-man roster, does not have dazzling numbers over his 4-year minor league career. Franklin chooses to ignore Mitchell’s mediocre career numbers:16-27 with 4.43 ERA, 339 strikeouts, and 184 walks over 372.2 innings. Instead, Franklin focuses on what Mitchell did in his 3-game stint with Trenton last season, his first time above Single-A. Mitchell didn’t earn a victory, but in his three starts he recorded a 1.93 ERA with 16 strikeouts over 18.2 innings.
Stats are there to be read at the end of the season, but they don’t sway me one way or the other. You look at (Mitchell’s) ability to throw his fastball and breaking ball, and the velocity he throws it with, and you say that’s a pretty good pitcher. It’s a matter of consistency and whether or not he can locate pitches well enough for a long period of time in going to determine if he’s going to pitch in the major leagues.
Mitchell was drafted by the Yankees in the 16th round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft out of North Carolina. His fastball can over-power the opposition as Mitchell consistently hits the mid-90s on the gun. His signature pitch, his curve, was once labeled the best curveball in the Yankees’ minor league system by Baseball America. He has also been working on a change-up to add to his arsenal.
Mitchell has no easy task Thursday evening. He will most likely square up against New Hampshire’s tough righty, Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez is widely heralded as the Toronto Blue Jays top prospect throughout the whole farm system. His fastball frequently tops out at 97 MPH. How does that make Mitchell feel?
Obviously, I take honor in that. I’m proud to be an opening day guy, so I just try to go out there and do the best I can. I guess it’s a little bit of added pressure, but when I’m pitching good I feel like I can pitch with the best of them. It should be a good show.
Hopefully, Mitchell’s best outdoes Sanchez’s best and sets the tone for the Thunder’s season. This team has a lot of talent, giving Trenton a legitimate shot to repeat as Eastern League champions. It all starts with the pitching, and Bryan Mitchell gets the first shot to prove the Thunder are indeed contenders.