2012 is the most important year of Jared Mitchell's career. A good year, and he's back on the prospect track the Sox set him on in 2009. A bad year, and he'll be slapped with a first-round bust label.
Last year was a major step backward for Mitchell, who missed nearly all of 2010 following a devastating ankle injury in spring training. For a player as raw as Mitchell, missing a year was extremely costly -- as evidenced by his 183 strikeouts and .304 on-base percentage in 129 games last season.
But Mitchell has shown signs of life early on into 2012. He posted a .387 OBP in 30 spring-training at-bats, although his 121 strikeout-to-walk ratio wasn't ideal. But most importantly, Mitchell looked like he fully trusted his surgically-repaired ankle for the first time in two years.
Mitchell's success has carried over into Double-A, which is promising given the organization's aggressive placement of him in Birmingham. He has a .433 OBP through 60 plate appearances, but even more encouraging is his 1611 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Yes, he's still striking out at a high rate -- that may never be fixed -- but he's getting on base and hitting the ball hard (three doubles, three triples) and has stolen three bases.
Sixty trips to the plate hardly is enough to make a determination about Mitchell. And even if you add in his 31 spring plate appearances, that's still not enough to say he's definitely back on the prospect track.
But the results, and the way Mitchell's gone about them, are at least encouraging. And for a farm system starved for promising prospects, it's a welcome sight.