Rangers outfielder Michael Choice is making a statement this spring. The 24-year-old Arlington native is doing what young players need to do to make a Major League Roster: play well enough to force the front office into a difficult decision. Choice is doing just that by hitting .389 with 2 home runs in 36 at-bats.
Rangers General Manager, Jon Daniels, may have a difficult decision with the outfield corps, to get the roster down to the regular season total of 25. With Shin Soo Choo, Leonys Martin, Alex Rios and Mitch Moreland only one spot may remain for a fifth outfielder. Coming into spring training, most thought that job would go to Engel Beltre, a speedy defensive wizard who cannot be sent to the minors without placing him on waivers. If Daniels decides to place an 'out of normal' sixth outfielder on the roster, it will most certainly go to Michael Choice.
There are several options to consider:
1. The Rangers could part ways with Engel Beltre, who has not been able to work his way through the system very quickly. While Beltre possesses great tools, many are convinced he is not mature enough to handle the workload at the Major League level.
2. The Rangers could keep both Beltre and Choice on the roster and primarily use Moreland in 1st base/Designated Hitter situations.
3. The Rangers can option Choice to AAA Round Rock where he can get 500+ plate appearances and groom him for next year, when Alex Rios is likely gone.
The Rangers would probably prefer option 3, where the young slugger can play everyday and get comfortable in a routine. However the experience of a full year in Arlington could prove to be invaluable, especially with daily instruction from veterans like Rios and Prince Fielder.
Choice, a University of Texas at Arlington alum, was acquired from the Oakland A's on December 3, 2013 along with Chris Bostock in exchange for fan favorite Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom. Michael was a first round draft pick (10th overall) in the 2010 MLB Draft and was a highly touted prospect hitting 30 home runs for the Oakland High-A club in Stockton, Calif. in 2011. His power has dipped since then due to a thumb injury that slowed him the next season.
The Rangers traded for him believing that Choice can be a full time outfielder in 2015 or fill in if an injury occurs this season. While his power numbers have tumbled, Choice seems to have found his swing in Arizona. Spring training numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, but we cannot discount them altogether.
Jon Daniels and staff have a hard decision to make on Michael Choice. While our heads say start him in Round Rock, our hearts scream for him to play in Arlington. There may be a spot on the 25-man roster for him and he may help the ballclub by being on it. With young players, however, there is a fine line between 'best for the ballclub' and 'best for the development of the player,' and that is the hardest part of the decision for the front office.
Wherever Michael Choice starts the season, he will end it in Arlington in 2014. Let's hope he ends like he has begun it, by hammering everything thrown at him.