Michael Choice Scouting Report: Texas Ranger outfielder Michael Choice ranked #e on the LSB Community Prospect Rankings.
In the days leading up to Opening Day, I'm going to offer write-ups on the 31 players who made the Rangers' LSB Community Prospect Rankings Top 31. I've done this the last couple of years, and I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so some of this will be a repeat of what I've written before, particularly regarding draft history or performance pre-2013. Also, this is not based on my personal observations -- I'm not a scout, and haven't seen most of these guys. I'm just aggregating the numbers and what others say about these players.
So, with that out of the way, let's take a look at Michael Choice...
Michael Choice is a new addition to the Ranger organization, having come to Texas, along with Chris Bostick, in a deal this offseason that sent Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom to Oakland. Choice is 24 years old and is listed at 6', 215 lbs. Choice is an Arlington native who attended UT-Arlington and was a first round pick of the Oakland A's (10th overall) in the 2010 draft, after being ranked #11 overall in the draft class by Baseball America. Pre-draft reports indicate that the Rangers, whose first pick was at #15, thought highly of Choice, and were hoping he might fall to them.
In his pro debut, Choice hit .266/.377/.587 in 9 PAs in rookie ball and 121 PAs in the Northwest League. His NWL stint was good enough to have him get the nod as the #2 prospect there, behind only the Rangers' Jurickson Profar. BA didn't have Choice in their top 100 after the season, but Baseball Prospectus had Choice at #74 in their list. John Sickels gave Choice a B, and said he was a borderline B+.
Choice had a solid 2011 season in the hitter-friendly California League, putting up a .285/.376/.542 slash line in 542 plate appearances while playing in Stockton's funky home park. That was enough to get Choice shooting up the lists, ranking #39 in BP's top 101, #80 by Baseball America, #59 by MLB.com, and #77 on Keith Law's list. John Sickels gave him a B+, praising his ability to generate homers and walks, and BA had Choice #7 in their Cal League list.
Choice couldn't carry that success over to 2012, however. Making the jump to the Texas League, Choice saw his power evaporate, dropping from 30 HRs in 2011 to 10 homers in 402 plate appearances in 2012, while putting up a .287/.356/.423 slash line. Choice also suffered a broken hand in late July that cut his season short. As a result, he fell out of the BA, MLB.com and Law top 100 lists, though BP had him at #82. Sickels kept him as a grade B, and he didn't make the BA Texas League Top 20 prospect list, with both Sickels and BA expressing concerns about his contact rates.
2013 was a decent bounceback year from Choice, who hit .302/.390/.445 with 115 Ks in 600 plate appearances in AAA Sacramento, and also had 19 plate appearances in the big leagues for Oakland. While Choice improved from his mediocre 2012 campaign, the lack of home runs from a guy whose selling point is his power was still a cause for concern. Once again, Choice didn't make the Law top 100 list, but MLB.com put him at #72, and BP had him at #79. There were varying opinions about Choice and where he slots in the Ranger system, and he was ranked as high as third (by BA) and as low as seventh (by Law) among Ranger prospects.
Choice is a corner outfielder who has the arm to play right field, and should be at least average defensively. He's going to make his living off of his bat, though, and in particular from his power. BA said he had the most raw power of any four year college player in the 2010 draft, and even with just 24 homers in 1002 plate appearances in AA and AAA the past two years, many observers still think that Choice has the raw power to be a quality player in the major leagues. His contact issues are going to limit what sort of average he puts up, but if he can hit .260 with 50-60 walks and 20-30 homers per year, he can be a solid contributor on a championship team. If the power doesn't play in the majors, then he's reduce to more of a bench or platoon role.
With the Rangers having yet to sign a veteran righthanded bench bat, Choice could conceivably battle this spring for a job as a fourth outfielder and platoon partner at DH for Mitch Moreland. More likely, though, Choice will start the season in AAA, with the Rangers looking to him to provide insurance in case of injury or bad performance in the majors by Moreland or one of the corner outfielders, and plugging him into the lineup in 2015.