A's Thrilled To Find Choice At No. 10

Oakland Targeted Texas-Arlington Outfielder




OAKLAND As draft day approached, the A's grew more and more convinced they would have no chance at a player they truly coveted. Then came the series of unexpected selections that left Michael Choice available at No. 10.

Scouting director Eric Kubota pounced.

"We didn't expect he would be there," Kubota said. "We were pleasantly surprised. He was one of the guys we targeted early in the year; he was one we were really hoping to get. We had heard for the last month that there were a lot of teams in the top nine that were considering him. If you look at the mock drafts, even up to today, (they) had him going somewhere before we picked."

The A's probably evaluated Choice more highly than most teams. Texas area scout Armann Brown is clearly excited when he discusses his big choice.

"He has the best bat speed I've seen since I've been scouting," said Brown, who has spent five years in the field. "When you look at Choice, you like his athleticism and you like the strong compact build. When you break him down, he has tremendously quick hands. There is tremendous power in his bat, good pitch selection, terrific balance in his swing."

That bat speed generates power, and that is why the A's so covet Choice. They look at the 20-year-old from Texas-Arlington and see the potential for legitimate power. Some scouts compare the 6-foot, 212-pound Choice to Ron Gant, and that type of player would thrill the A's.

"He's a tremendous kid, a tremendous personality," Brown said. "He's a humble kid who comes from a working-class family. He's very appreciative of what he has."

One of the questions will be whether Choice can remain a center fielder or move to a corner. The A's will start him off in center, but the plan has been for most outfielders to give them time at different positions to increase their versatility.

"We're going to stick him out in center field and give him a try out there," Brown said. "If not, he's going to be an above-average right fielder."

Choice would like a shot at center field. "I definitely prefer to stay there," Choice said in a conference call with Bay Area media shortly after the draft. "I've gotten adapted to it. But if things don't work out that way, I'll be happy to make and moves the organization wants me to make, but I'd prefer to stay out there."

He played catcher and second base in high school at Mansfield-Timberview in Arlington, Texas, before moving to center at Texas-Arlington. Choice was a district MVP his senior year, but he went undrafted. Texas-Arlington was the only team to offer him a scholarship during the early signing period, before his MVP senior year. After the season, other colleges came calling but he honored his commitment to the school only a few miles from his family home.

He wound up hitting .392 with a school-record 34 home runs and 162 RBIs for his three-year career. His junior year was a combination of success and frustration. He batted .383 with 16 home runs, and his 76 walks set a Southland Conference record. But all those walks indicated that pitchers were pitching around him, taking the bat out of his hands rather than giving him a chance to hit.

"It was a little frustrating," Choice said. "There were some situations where I really wanted to contribute to the team. Sometimes it made me get a little jumpy and get out of the zone. For the most part, I think I handled it pretty well."

He wound up as the 2010 Southland Conference player and hitter of the year, even if the pitchers did everything they could to prevent him from hitting at all. Despite the frustration, Choice is grateful for the experience.

"I've definitely matured both physically and mentally," he said. "I was 17 when I graduated from high school. I started lifting weights. I grew as far as my baseball IQ; as far as learning the game. I feel it helped me a lot to mature."

The Texan grew up following the hometown Rangers, but he said his favorite player was Derek Jeter. "I like his attitude about the game: He plays hard, takes it seriously and has fun doing it."

So the A's got bat speed, athleticism and enormous raw power potential all in the form of a 20-year-old who wants to emulate Jeter's style and attitude. Draft days can be sort of like the beginning of a fairy tale, and the humble kid from from Arlington is poised to begin quite a story.

A's ACORNS:

• It was a strange first day of the draft for the A's. After making Choice the 10th pick of the first round, they would not have another selection on the first day. This left Kubota and the scouts and staff of the war room to feast on sliced beef and prepare for Day Two, when they would begin again with the 60th overall pick.

• Choice said he hopes to sign quickly and get into action. The A's say there was no pre-draft deal. "I don't think it will take a long time at all," Choice said. "I am definitely very eager to get on the field. It shouldn't be a long process."