Amateur Draft Profile: Michael Choice, OF, UT Arlington

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Summary

There are a few things to remember about Michael Choice. First, he plays for the same school that churned out Hunter Pence. Second, he has better power right now than any player in this draft. That's why he's projected so highly. Third, he has no one else on his college team to back him up. Hence, the spike in his walk numbers in 2010. 

Why should all that matter? The 6-foot, 215 pound center fielder has one of the more contentious profiles on this board. Scouts seem to love him. Guys like Keith Law rave about his raw power potential. But, some of the more analytical scouting by the guys at Project Prospect point out that hitters who cross the 17 percent strikeout rate struggle in the pros. He struck out in roughly 19 percent of his plate appearances in 2010. At the same time, his walk rate skyrocketed. This may be legitimate; his batting eye just may have improved from his sophomore to junior year. However, with his power potential and the lack of another threat in the UTA roster, doesn't it make sense that teams just pitched around him?

There's also the matter of his swing. Some scouts think it's going to be a problem in pro ball. Others, like Steve Carter here, think it's busy to generate bat speed and the inverted knee thing (see video below) helps to drive his hips through, creating more bat speed. What they can all agree on is that the front toe tap will make it rough on him to hit breaking pitches early in his career. He will probably have to retool his swing some in the minors to hit with wooden bats consistently.

Floor

I think the floor for Choice has to be Collin DeLome or Richard Hidalgo. The guy has great power, but strikes out a ton and doesn't have good contact skills. Thus, he's toiling away down in the minors with little chance of getting called up to the majors soon. If he's not hitting for average at Round Rock, why would he in the majors? Same goes for Choice. What if his walk rate increase is because teams were able to pitch around him? He'd struggle to post similar numbers in the minors and might never hit above .250. That'd be pretty disappointing for a Top 10 pick.

Ceiling

On the other side of that coin, Choice has a huge ceiling. Think Ryan Howard and Adam Dunn. That's the kind of power he has, the kind of walk potential he has, except he'd be able to play in left field and possibly right for a while. 100 walks with 40+ home runs is not out of the realm of possibility. He probably won't be outstanding defensively at either corner outfield position, but he'll be plenty good enough as a hitter to make a decade's worth of All-Star teams.

Will the Astros pick him?  If so, where?

The rumors connecting Choice to Houston are flying. Every updated mock draft in the past week has put him in the No. 8 slot. I just don't see it. The Astros have not drafted a player with this little athleticism early under this new regime. Plus, they don't tend to go by consensus, so just because everyone assumes he makes sense, doesn't mean they won't take Josh Sale or Delino DeShields here. 

As I mentioned, I don't love Choice's swing. He's got plenty of power, but I wonder if good pitchers will be able to neutralize him. He never had any protection at UTA, so it's hard to tell what his plate discipline is like. He will also be limited defensively, which doesn't match up with the outfielders like T.J. Steele and Jay Austin that Heck has drafted in the past two years. Choice won't last until No. 19 and I don't think the Astros take him at No. 8, so it's a very low probability that he'll end up a Houston Astro.

Where is he projected to go right now?

Keith Law has him at No. 6 to the Diamondbacks.

Andy Seiler has him at No. 8 to the Astros.

Deep Leagues has him at No. 8 to the Astros.

Jonathan Mayo has him at No. 7 to the Mets.

Perfect Game USA has him at No. 9 to the Padres.

Baseball America has him at No. 10 to the Athletics.

Frankie Piliere has him at No. 8 to the Astros.

Kevin Goldstein has him at No. 8 to the Astros.

John Sickels has him at No. 9 to the Padres.

Bibliography (Scouting Reports and video)

Below the jump.

Videos


MLB.com

Choice at UTA

Choice with Team USA

Keith Law's take:

Choice's swing has with excellent leverage which, combined with his upper-body strength, is going to continue to produce power with wood. It's a busy swing, however, with a lot going on in his lower half. He has excess leg movement, leading to an early, severe shift forward with his hips, so making contact against better-quality pitching while swinging a wood bat is going to be a challenge.

He hasn't faced great competition this spring and has walked, intentionally or unintentionally-intentionally, very frequently, so some of his massive walk total is a function of his environment rather than his patience.

He's not staying in centerfield and I don't see the body aging well into his late 20s or early 30s. He's got an average arm and could probably handle right if he tweaks his throwing motion, as he gets under the ball sometimes and underthrows.

The upside here is the Ryan Howard/Adam Dunn skill set -- 80 raw power with walks and strikeouts -- but in left or right field and from a right-handed bat. The downside is that he might not make enough contact to get that power to show up in games -- the first part of ?hit for power? is ?hit,? as a scouting director once told me -- and he might end up a big leaguer who doesn't hit for average or get on base enough.

Andy Seiler's take:

Choice has received more attention as of late, as he continues to prove doubters wrong with his game on the field. Choice wasn't drafted or even really recruited out of high school, though he started immediately upon his arrival to UT Arlington. Blessed with plus-plus raw power, Choice's game revolves almost completely around his bat. Using an above-average hit tool and that power, he puts a charge into almost every ball he hits, and he does an excellent job of squaring the ball on his bat, a good sign to a smooth transition to wood bats. He proved his worth with wood bats last summer while playing for Team USA, and he's working on becoming the top college outfielder in the entire draft class. He's a fringe-average runner with fringe-average range for the outfield, also possessing a fringe-average arm, all things that pull down his potential draft position from the high place it could be if he were a little more athletic. He's a very smart player in the outfield and on the bases, though, so scouts feel he'll transition well to pro ball. The one drawback with his hitting is his pitch recognition, though he's improved on it in his three years at school. He's not against drawing a walk, and he's improved his patience as he's been pitched around this year. He is sacrificing some contact for power this year, which is a concern, but considering he's the only threat on his entire team, he gets a pass for trying to do something positive. He's made himself into a solid late first round option, and he shouldn't last past the beginning of the second round. Projected Draft Range: #20 Overall - Early 2nd Round

Project Prospect's take:

Michael Choice is one of the few risk/reward college guys in this draft class. He could turn into a 30-35+ home run monster who draws 100 walks or he could struggle against pitchers who can locate good breaking balls.

Choice does have outstanding raw power, has proven can take a walk and should have some defensive value. Players with Choice’s combination of athletic ability and secondary skill are rare and tend to have very high ceilings. Given the concerns about his contact ability, I’d have a hard time taking him in the top 10. But the cost benefit analysis becomes much more palatable towards the end of the first round where the opportunity cost is lower.

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