1991 Upper Deck Final Edition #56F – Keith Mitchell

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The Card

A pretty boring couple of photos. On the front, Keith stands there contemplating his future with the Braves. On the back, he cheeses it up.

I liked 1991 Upper Deck’s design. They rebounded from their blah 1990 approach and returned to their former glory, adding a bit of the flair that made the 1989 set so popular. The 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition set used the same design and was chock full of exciting rookies that I had spent a lot of time researching. I told all my friends to get the set for $12, claiming it would be the best baseball card investment they’d ever make. Today, you can get the set on eBay for $8.

The Player

Keith was drafted by the Braves in the 4th round of the 1987 amateur draft.

I noticed him in 1991 as I was searching for rookies who were going to be the next big star. I noticed that he had progressed rapidly through the minors and produced at every level, hitting for average, power, and drawing a lot of walks without striking out too much. His numbers suggested that he knew how to hit. I also noticed that he was very young when he got to the majors, something Bill James had suggested in one of his books was perhaps the number one indicator of future success. Keith joined the Braves at age 21 and put up great numbers in limited playing time. On top of all that, Keith was was a cousin of Kevin Mitchell, who was coming off a few monster years with the San Francisco Giants. Keith was destined to be a star.

For some reason, Keith was never given a full shot in the majors. Granted, the 1991 Atlanta Braves had a strong outfield of Lonnie Smith, Ron Gant, and Dave Justice. But in 1992, the Braves went with Otis Nixon in center field. Nixon was exciting to watch on the basepaths, but was he really a better option than Keith Mitchell? Perhaps Keith never got a shot because he wasn’t a particularly good fielder.

So Mitchell was stuck in AAA, languishing there and putting up pretty good numbers for seven years. He was briefly called up by Seattle, Cincinnati, and Boston but never stuck. Running out of options, he played in Mexico and Korea for parts of the 2000 season. In 2002, Keith had a monster half-season for Sonoma County in the Independent League, but it would get him nowhere. He played parts of 2003 with three different minor league teams before retiring.

In 2005, Mitchell was named the hitting coach of the Swing of the Quad Cities, a minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. He managed for a couple of years and is a hitting coach in the Cardinals organization today. Glad to see he stuck with baseball.

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