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DFA's Draft Druthers: Michael Choice

 

I hope to do several of these before the June draft talking about some draft thoughts and preferences along with links to help those who want to get more info on the draft but don't know where to turn.   Andy Seiler's SBN draft blog MLBbonusbaby.com which is a great accessible and key word FREE resource folks to get a good sense of the lay of the land.  Andy is remarkably open and responsive to fan questions. Seiler lives in Georgia and gets to scout a lot of the SEC which is premium conference with a lot of talent.  One of the other excellent resources that is free is PNR scouting.  Nick James there has excellent scouting reports and is also great resource on twitter.  Most of you should know Minorleagueball.com which is run by John Sickles and does some excellent work related to the draft even with a focus on the minor leagues rather than amateur talent.  Baseballbeginnings.com is another great site that does its own scouting reports. MLB.com has a draft section with some video as well.

I wanted to look at some of the college bats that are being tied to the A's.  Michael Choice is one of the "power" bats in a weak college class this year that has been tied to the A's mostly because of the A's "traditional drafting mold" of college bats.  John Sickles of Minorleagueball.com suggest that the A's will reach for Choice the OF from UT Arlington much in the same way the A's reached for Jemile Weeks in the 2008 draft.  Lets look at Choice, who Sickles says:

Michael Choice, OF, University of Texas-Arlington  
     Choice is 6-1, 215 pounds, hitting from the right side. Scouts rate his tools as just average overall, except his power which is excellent. His numbers stand out: .395/.569/.755 with 14 homers and 58 walks in 147 at-bats, with an OPS about 67 percent better than his context. He's also swiped 11 bases in 14 attempts, although scouts don't think the steals will carry to higher levels and his defense is mediocre. Choice has more current usable power than Brentz and is a more complete hitter than Brown, though his physical tools aren't as impressive as either of his competitors. He would slot best in the second half of the first round to a team looking for power, but there have been rumors he could go earlier than that for a team looking for a slot bargain.

Some like Nick James at PNR see safety in his bat:

Choice represents one of the better power bats in the draft class, and more safety than you will find with some of the prep bats with higher raw power ratings. As discussed above, however, the power does come with some trade-offs. He limits his contact-ability with a longish, high-effort swing and his plate discipline vacillates between average and a tick-below. While he boasts a gaudy Division I-leading 66 BB (1.35 per game -- also leads Division I), he has been pitched around a great deal due to the steep fall-off in the strength of bats with his supporting cast. He is also whiffing at a not insignificant rate -- once every 5.4 PA and just under once a game. Still, he shows good balance, even with the all-out approach, and his hand-eye coordination is strong enough to allow him to consistently square when he gets a pitch he can drive. He has the bat for a corner slot and could ultimately settle-in as a solid #5 or #6 hitter in a good pro line-up. There is a slight risk his swing will be exposed some against better pitching, but his bat speed should help minimize his slight mechanical shortcomings.

I disagree with James. Watch this video:

I think Choice's swing is hideous.  Obviously a big dude, he can hit for power and has show that with a metal bat when he squares up to college pitching, he can give it a ride.  I just see way way way too many timing points in Choices' swing to hit MLB pitching for anything resembling a decent batting average.   With that swing you should be able to fool Choice with quality change ups that mess up the timing of such a complex swing and fastballs up and in which would be able to blow by a swing that takes that long to load and has such long arms. Even James who sees safety in his bat projects him as a 45/50 on the 20 to 80 scout scale for his hit tool, which is the ability to hit for average.

The ability to hit for average is not one that usually concerns me.  Players can have immense offensive value without hitting for average and can have little value even with a sparkling average.  The overall ability to get on base is far more important than the specific ability to get on base by hitting the ball.  While superficially leading Division I in walks would suggest that Choice might have the ability like a Jack Cust or Adam Dunn to make up for a lousy batting average by walking prolifically, the consensus is that Choice's gaudy walk numbers are a result in being by far the best player on his team and the lack of protection in his lineup.  Moving forward both Nick James and Andy Selier have said that he is more of an average walk rate than an OBP machine.

Choice has nice power but its not off the charts and I don't think hell hit or walk enough to make himself a valuable player with defense that will require him to play an outfield corner.  From a philosophical stand point, I prefer drafting up the middle talent because the likelihood of a position move. Choice currently is in center but runs poor routes with only average speed and his defense rates well below average at the position.  Choice doesn't have a rocket for an arm either so you might be looking at a longterm average left fielder.  When combined with a bat that could realistically project to hit something like .250/325/450 with average defense in left field, the end picture is far from inspiring.

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