Editor's Note: This award is not intended to be a prospect ranking. The award is purely to honor the player who had the best 2011 season among the Oakland A's minor league position players.
The Fan Selection: Michael Choice, Stockton Ports
We polled the A's fans on our OaklandClubhouse.com messageboard to get their pick for the top A's minor league position player for the 2011 season. Their pick? Stockton Ports' outfielder Michael Choice, and by a fairly wide margin.
Choice, the A's 2010 first-round selection, turned heads from the start of spring training this year. Participating in his first major league spring training camp, Choice wowed A's coaches and players with his power, speed and athleticism.
All three attributes would be on display throughout the 2011 campaign for the High-A Stockton Ports. Choice led the California League with 30 homeruns. He posted a .285/.376/.542 line in 467 at-bats and drove-in 82 runs. Choice was named to the California League's Post-Season All-Star team.
Choice's numbers would likely have been even better had he not suffered a quad injury while in the midst of a white-hot streak in late July. Choice was batting .416 with 10 homers in 22 games in July before the injury hit. The lingering effects of the strain hampered him for much of August, but he recovered in time to hit .426 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 11 post-season games for Stockton. He is suiting up for the Phoenix Desert Dogs during this year's Arizona Fall League and is likely to enter the 2012 season as the A's top prospect.
OaklandClubhouse.com's Choice: Jermaine Mitchell, Midland Rockhounds and Sacramento River Cats
Runner-Up: Michael Choice
It was a difficult decision for us between Mitchell and Choice for the top honor this year. In the end, we decided on Mitchell, who emerged out of prospect obscurity to post big numbers for Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento.
Mitchell was once a top prospect in the A's system, but after three disappointing seasons, he was on the outside looking in for prospect rankings entering the 2011 season. The centerfielder began the year at the Double-A level, the highest level he had started a season in his career.
To say that Mitchell dominated the Texas League would be an understatement. In 74 games, he hit .355 with a .453 OBP. He reached double digits in all three extra-base categories (15 doubles, 13 triples and 10 homeruns). Mitchell walked 54 times while driving in 50 runs, mostly from the leadoff spot.
After the Texas League All-Star Game, Mitchell was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento. He got off to a slow start with the River Cats, batting .248 with a 687 OPS in 24 games in July. Mitchell turned it around in August, however, batting .330 with a 971 OPS. He then added nine hits in 21 at-bats in September (.429) and finished his Triple-A stint with a .302/.401/.453 line. He also improved his base-running with the River Cats, swiping 13 bags in 18 chances (as opposed to 14 in 27 chances with Midland).
Perhaps most impressive was the fact that Mitchell played down-the-stretch with knee soreness that resulted in off-season surgery. The centerfielder will be facing another challenge coming into next season with his rehab in front of him, but if this year was any indication, Mitchell is up to the task.