Even before spring training, the expectations surrounding the Oakland A's 2010 first-round pick Michael Choice were sky-high. After he hit .292 with a .414 OBP for the A's during big league spring training, those expectations were launched into a different atmosphere.
Fans and scouts aren't alone in expecting a lot from the centerfielder, however. Choice himself has set the bar high for his own performance, which is why it wasn't surprising that before the Stockton Ports' game on Sunday he described his first 10 days of the 2011 season as a little bit of a struggle despite the fact that he had already homered twice and driven in seven in 10 games. (Choice would go onto homer and double and drive-in three in the game on Sunday.)
Through 12 games, Choice is only batting .217 and he has struck-out 16 times, but he has still been a force to reckon with for Stockton. His OBP is a respectable .345 and his slugging percentage is .500. As of Monday, Choice's three homeruns are tied for fourth-most in the hitter-friendly California League and his 11 RBIs are tied for ninth-most in the league.
For Choice, the most important numbers are seven and six, the Ports' win-loss record, which has them tied for first in the Cal League's Northern Division.
"I'm still trying to get it going but as a team we are doing pretty well, so that's all that matters right now," Choice said.
Last season, Choice was a big factor in the short-season Vancouver Canadians' second-half push to the playoffs. After signing with Oakland in late July, he joined the C's in early August and he propelled Vancouver to a second-half division title and a 25-13 record. In 27 games for Vancouver, Choice hit .284 with seven homers, 26 RBIs and an OPS of 1016.
Although he made it look easy, Choice said it was adjustment to go from the collegiate ranks with the University of Texas, Arlington to professional baseball.
"The biggest difference was playing every day and facing better pitching every day instead of every two games [in college]," Choice said.
Since turning pro, Choice has continued to make adjustments. Coming out of the draft, there were concerns that his swing had too many moving parts, especially in the lower-half of his body. He worked with A's coaches during the organization's fall Instructional League and into spring training on toning down that movement. Although he got good results with his "new" swing during spring training, Choice admits it's still a work-in-progress.
"I'm still kind of experimenting with it. I'm still trying to find exactly what it is I am going to do," Choice said.
"All I can do is go up there and give it my best."