Plenty of eyebrows were raised at SoxFest when general manager Rick Hahn mentioned that assistant Buddy Bell raved about the improvement of 2009 No. 1 pick Jared Mitchell, based on his performance in the Instructional League last fall.

When asked about Mitchell, Bell didn't shy away.

"Power-wise, there's nobody in the organization with that kind of power," said Bell, adding that hitting coordinator Tim Laker, Class-A hitting coach Robert Sasser and Double-A hitting coach Gary Ward each worked with Mitchell, and Laker made a visit two weeks ago to Tampa to oversee Mitchell's development.

Mitchell hit a combined .237 with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs at Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte last season, but executive vice president Ken Williams pointed last summer to Mitchell's .358 on-base percentage as a source of improvement.

Bell believes that Mitchell, a wide receiver-outfielder at LSU, is transforming from an athlete who plays baseball to a baseball player with gifted athletic skills.

The 6-foot, 205-pound Mitchell stole 21 bases, and some wonder whether he can incorporate speed into his game, such as attempting more bunts for hits.

"My philosophy is a guy with that kind of ability has to learn to hit first," said Bell, who has stressed patience with Mitchell from the time he was signed. "And then once he does hit, then you can incorporate some of the other stuff. When you're thinking about other things, … . Sometimes a bunt can help your personality at times. But he looks awesome."

Switch-hitting infielder Carlos Sanchez, outfielder Trayce Thompson and Mitchell were mentioned by Bell as the three prospects with the closest shot to the majors.