July 1, 2013 9:51:03 AM
STARKVILLE -- Evan Mitchell will forego his final season with the Mississippi State University baseball program to sign a professional contract with the Cincinnati Reds organization.
The junior right-hander began the 2013 season in the Bulldogs' weekend rotation, but the coaches removed him because of his inability to find the strike zone on a consistent basis.
"Big thanks to everyone for the love shown to me the past 3 years at MSU," Mitchell tweeted on his Twitter account, @E_Mitchell51, "Now it's on to chase my dream w/ the Reds!"
Mitchell was 0-1 with a 3.74 ERA this season. He had 26 walks in 21 2/3 innings. The 21-year-old also struck out 27 thanks in part to a 94 mph fastball and a devastating slider, but his control of his secondary pitches has been questioned.
Cincinnati selected Mitchell in the 13th round. According to a 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft rule, prospects selected after the 10th round don't count against a team's signing bonus pool unless they receive a signing bonus greater of $100,000. MLB and the MLB Players Union created the signing bonus pools to give each franchise an amount of money it can spend on its draft picks.
"I feel so bad for Evan because he is just not capturing the strike zone like he can, (but) he will be that guy," MSU coach John Cohen said April 23. "Does it happen next week, next year, or in professional baseball? You just never know. The stuff is there. I hope we can get him back out there again because he's just too talented not to."
Mitchell teamed with pitchers Ross Mitchell and Jacob Lindgren to found "The Bench Mobb," a group on the baseball team this season that kept the squad loose in the dugout. It attracted attention for picking up Ross Mitchell and throwing him from the dugout to the field before the first pitch. The three-man group even did a music video on YouTube that went viral during the College World Series.
Three seasons ago, Evan Mitchell threw eight innings in a victory against Austin Peay University in the NCAA Atlanta Regional. The victory was especially sweet because it came close to home. Mitchell, a standout at Wheeler High School in Marietta, Ga., allowed three earned runs and five hits in the victory. He struck out eight in the 128-pitch outing.
"A scouting friend of mine from the Chicago Cubs was here tonight and one of the guys with Toronto also," former Wheeler High baseball coach David McDonald said after the game. "They both came up to me and said, 'Why didn't you tell me about Evan Mitchell? I said, 'I did, but you weren't paying attention.' "
Evan Mitchell attracted interest from professional scouts last summer for the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod Baseball League, one of the nation's top summer wood-bat leagues for college players. Mitchell was 0-0 with a 5.78 ERA in 9 1/3 innings for the Mariners. In 12 games, he allowed five hits and 13 walks. He struck out 14.
In 37 games (18 starts) at MSU, Mitchell was 8-4 in 108 2/3 innings. He struck out 119 and walked 78.
"He impresses by running some balls up there 94-96, and he's got a great breaking ball, and his ability to control the running game has really matured," Cohen said in January. "We're a better team if he ends up being one of those (weekend) guys, better pitching staff."
Mitchell is MSU's fourth underclassman who will sign a professional contract after being drafted. First-round draft pick Hunter Renfroe (San Diego Padres) and Adam Frazier (sixth-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates) have announced they won't return to Starkville. Junior infielder/pitcher Daryl Norris, a 22nd-round pick by the Detroit Tigers, announced Friday on Twitter he planned to sign with the Tigers.