Michael Choice – Learn To “Bernie Lean”
Start believing the hype on Oakland A’s top prospect center fielder, Michael Choice. Currently batting .284, with 8 HRs, 34 RBIs, a .393 OBP, and a .872 OPS, he has the makings of being a really good Major League ballplayer. He hits for power, as he is second in the Pacific Coast League in HRs, and possesses a good batters eye, having an almost 1:1 K/BB ratio this season at Triple-A Sacramento (River Cats). With the A’s are currently sitting at 22-22 in the win-loss column and in sole possession of second place in the AL West division (6.5 games back of first place Texas Rangers), Choice may soon graduate from Triple-A to the big league club sooner than expected. Here’s how.
While it’s still early in the season, A’s General Manager, Billy Beane, has shown in the past that he is not afraid to start selling off players earlier than expected (whether than waiting till the MLB trade deadline), in order to capitalize on their peak value, and in return snag a better-than-normal prospect out of a deal. That just may be the case that gets Choice called up to the big leagues, as the two prime candidates that the A’s could look to trade are center fielder’s Chris Young and Coco Crisp.
Young and Crisp are the first and third highest grossing players on the A’s roster, with Young at $8.7 and Crisp at $7 million. Both Young and Crisp are also eligible for free agency after the 2013 season (Young and Crisp both have team options for the 2014 season), which make them attractive for teams involved in tight playoff races who are in need of renting a contributing Outfielder. If the A’s were to decide to move Young and Crisp, it would that create a direct path to the big leagues for Choice.
Moving Young and Crisp would not only create playing time for Choice, but it would also free up $15.7 million from their books, which the A’s could use to spread around and buy-out some arbitration years on their young arms in the starting rotation and bullpen. The A’s have always operated on a tight budget, making locking up young talent early, and cheaply, a high priority. While I know that sum of money would be freed up anyways if the A’s were to not pick-up Young and Crisp’s options in the offseason, if they were traded in-season the A’s could at least get something for them instead of letting them walk, and getting nothing in return.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Choice while covering the Sacramento Rivercats game versus the Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate, the Oklahoma City Redhawks. Here is what he had to say about improving his overall game, the changes he has had to make at each minor-league level, and about the anticipated time frame for when he may get called-up.
Listen to Michael Choice Interview:
Adding Choice now to an already young and talented outfield featuring Right Fielder Josh Reddick, who is arbitration eligible after the season and will likely return to the A’s, and Left Fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who is locked up till at least 2016 when he becomes arbitration eligible, or 2018 when he becomes a free agent, would set them up nicely for the future, a mantra the A’s live by.
While there is no doubt that Choice is proving he can hit at the Major League level, there is still work that needs to be done at the Triple-A level. He can work on getting better defensively, taking better routes to fly balls. The River Cats have also been experimenting with Choice, playing him at the corner Outfield positions (Left Field and Right Field), to see if maybe either one of those positions would be a better fit for him defensively.
I don’t anticipate Choice getting the call-up to the big leagues anytime sooner than a September call-up, but if the scenario were to play out as described above (trading Young and Crisp), I believe Choice has the demeanor and skills to handle the bigs and get acclimated quickly. There is one other thing however that Choice would have to work on if he does get his call-up to the A’s, his “Bernie Lean.”