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Locals Pete Crow-Armstrong and Garrett Mitchell taken in first round of MLB Draft

Harvard-Westlake outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong bats against Birmingham during a game on Feb. 19, 2019.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The reading of their names felt normal. Little else about the start of their pro careers will be.

For the 37 players selected during the first night of the Major League Baseball amateur draft Wednesday — including two Southland prospects, Studio City Harvard-Westlake High’s Pete Crow-Armstrong and UCLA’s Garrett Mitchell — uncertainty awaits.

There probably won’t be a minor league season this summer. They‘ll likely wait until the fall or next spring to make their professional debuts. For one night, however, order was restored, finally putting the pandemic-impacted draft cycle behind them.

“I’ve never felt anything like this before,” Crow-Armstrong said after being picked 19th overall by the New York Mets. “In the moment it was shocking and a bit of a rush. But after that, it’s just a ton of excitement.”

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The Angels broke with a recent organizational trend to select left-handed pitcher Reid Detmers from Louisville.

As expected, power-hitting Arizona State infielder Spencer Torkelson went first overall to the Detroit Tigers, followed by Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad (No. 2, Baltimore Orioles) and Minnesota pitcher Max Meyer (No. 3, Miami Marlins). Vanderbilt outfielder Austin Martin, widely predicted to go second overall, slipped to the Toronto Blue Jays at No. 5.

Crow-Armstrong and Mitchell, who went 20th overall to the Milwaukee Brewers, fulfilled their first-round projections, becoming two of the four players from a California high school or college selected on the first day of this summer’s shortened draft. Rounds two through five will take place Thursday.

Mitchell, a speedy 6-foot-3, 215-pound center fielder, hit .327 with 81 RBIs in his college career and was ranked a top-10 prospect by scouting outlets including MLB Pipeline. But a lack of power (he hit only six home runs in his two-plus college seasons) and a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis reportedly hurt his stock with some teams, forcing him to wait more than two hours before coming off the board.

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UCLA baseball player Garrett Mitchell was selected 20th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in the MLB Draft.
(Scott Chandler / UCLA)

“[My] name being called, I just broke down,” Mitchell said during a video call. “So much stress and so much stuff just came off my shoulders. Now I just get to relax and play baseball again.”

Tod Johnson, the Brewers vice president of domestic scouting, described Mitchell, who became UCLA’s highest-drafted position player since Chase Utley in 2000, “an electric athlete” and said, “once we knew he was there, it was a relatively easy choice for us.”

Crow-Armstrong’s power was also questioned by some scouts, an attribute the quick 6-foot-1, 188-pound center fielder, who as a junior batted .426 and played for the prestigious Team USA program,
focused on improving during the coronavirus shutdown.

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“My body has not felt this good in a long time,” he said. “I have to put a lot less behind my swing to get more out of the result. That’s important. It’s allowed me to tinker with my swing and fine-tune my mechanics.”

The Dodgers continued their pattern of taking college players in the first round of the MLB draft when they selected Louisville right-hander Bobby Miller.

Crow-Armstrong’s newfound free time also allowed him to explore thoughts that went beyond baseball. He hopes the recent protests over police brutality will result in positive change, and realizes he hadn’t understood the challenges teammates of color faced.

“I’ve never taken that second to ask them about how they wake up and are fearful, things along those lines,” he said. “I think it’s my job to try and understand and show them that I’m with them.”

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To that end, Crow-Armstrong is hopeful his selection in the draft is a first step toward not only an MLB career, but also a big league voice.


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