TCU pitcher Andrew Mitchell hadn’t given the MLB Draft much thought.He fully expected the Horned Frogs to still be playing in the postseason this week and not having the time or desire to think about where he might go in the first-year player draft, which begins with the first two rounds at 6 p.m. Thursday.He’s projected by multiple sources to go in the top 50 — 40th by mlb.com and 49th by Baseball America.Other TCU draft prospects include infielder Paul Hendrix and pitchers Stefan Crichton, Trevor Seidenberger and Nick Frey.Mitchell isn’t set on leaving TCU just yet. He likes the idea of coming back for his senior season to help the Frogs get back to the postseason after missing out for the first time in nine years. But he’s also keeping an open mind and will make his decision based on what makes the most sense for him and his family. He declined to discuss a threshold major league teams would need to meet to lure him away.“If the opportunity presents itself, and it seems like it’s right for me and my family for me to move on then I probably will,” he said. “But I have no qualms about coming back and having my senior year and graduating and getting a degree because, honestly, I don’t want to leave TCU with that team that didn’t make a regional.”The prospect of coming back is tantalizing because most of the team, including much of the pitching staff he’s been part of for three seasons, is returning.“We’re going to have just as many pieces back to the puzzle and some really good freshmen coming in,” he said. “I think we could be really, really good with some work in the off-season. I’m very open to either one. I think a senior year would be a really fun time. I’ve built a lot of relationships with the freshmen and sophomores and some of the guys who are returning.”It has been a weird year for Mitchell. The right-hander was expected to be the Frogs’ closer when the season began, but a month into the season he had only one save in just 61/3 innings.For much of the first month, TCU either trailed late or had a big enough lead that Mitchell wasn’t needed. Coach Jim Schlossnagle grew tired of seeing one of the best arms in the country going unused while the team struggled below .500.He moved Mitchell into a starting role March 24 at Oklahoma. Mitchell struck out six and held the Sooners to one run on an infield single in 42/3 innings. The Frogs eventually lost 4-3 in 10 innings when a passed ball helped set up the Sooners’ winning run — a hallmark of the Frogs’ frustrating season.“Before the season, we figured we’d be winning a lot more close games than we lost,” Mitchell said. “In years past, teams that have gone to Omaha and had really successful years have had that person at the end of the game they could rely on to get that final out. We had a very deep pitching staff with a lot of serviceable arms that could start for us so [Schlossnagle] figured my best usage could be out of the bullpen closing games.”Mitchell said it wasn’t just the offense that failed TCU in 2013. He struggled in four of his nine starts. But he finished strong in the Frogs’ Big 12 tournament finale, holding Kansas to one run on two hits in five innings.“At Texas Tech [March 31], we had a chance to sweep and I know I had a terrible start,” he said. “The bats were there, but we didn’t hold them off. No matter how well we pitched this season we definitely had games where the hitters bailed us out and we bailed the hitters out.”Watching sluggers such as Kevin Cron, Derek Odell and Jerrick Suiter struggle at the plate was tough for Mitchell.“When you look at the guy next to you and see him struggling and caring so much about our team, it really hurts everybody,” he said.“They all want to win so bad and are trying so hard to help our team. So it does make everybody feel for them because we see how hard they work in the weight room in the off-season and in the summer trying to get their bodies right. I have no doubt they’re going to come back and have a really good year.“They’re going to be the core of our team offensively. Those guys carried us into the regional last year as freshmen. No matter who you’re playing, that’s a huge stage for freshmen to do that.”The biggest quandary for Schlossnagle has been dealing with struggling bats when those struggling are great team players.“We had zero off-field trouble, and everything we did was to better the team and put us in a better position to win,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes the game of baseball can come back and bite you and, no matter how well-prepared you were, there’s always something they can throw at you that you’re not ready for.”For now, Mitchell is ready for whatever the future brings.
Stefan Stevenson 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs