Expectations were sky high for Michael Choice coming into the 2012 campaign. After putting together a monstrous 2011 season with the High-A Stockton Ports, Choice got to return to his home state of Texas to play for the Double-A Midland Rockhounds this year. A star at Timberview High and UT-Arlington, Choice's return to the Lone Star State has not been as fruitful thus far, however. Some of the centerfielder's numbers are down from last year but, at only 22-years-old, Choice still has plenty of time to sharpen his abilities in the minors.
Midway through the 2012 season, Choice is batting .256 with a 693 OPS and 74 hits in 289 at-bats. Although his on-base percentage (.326) and slugging percentage (.367) are well below the standard Choice set last season with the Ports (.376 OBP and a .542 SLG), he has had some positive numbers. Choice's hit total leads the team and is 12th in the Texas League. Twelve of those knocks have been doubles and one was a triple. Choice has scored 44 runs and driven in a team-leading 43 RBI (ranked fifth in the division).
Choice is enjoying the challenge of adjusting to the Texas League.
"I like the team a lot," Choice said of the Rockhounds. "I've had the chance to play with some of the guys before either in Stockton, Vancouver or somewhere else. Making the jump to Double-A isn't easy but it's no different than anywhere else you play. It is all about finding who you are as a player and just making adjustments."
"I think the jump is more mental than anything. It's all up to you to go out there and play the same game you've been playing all along. If that's done everything else should take care of itself."
Being from Fort Worth, Choice is enjoying playing closer to his family.
"I definitely get to see them more," he said. "When we play Frisco I get to stay at home so that's a big deal. It's good to see home every now and then."
A number of Choice's 2012 stats are on pace to equal or outdo his season at Stockton, most notably runs scored, RBIs and doubles. However, in the other key offensive categories (BA, OBP, SLG, HR), Choice's numbers are down. Choice whacked 30 bombs for the Ports but has managed only six thus far with Midland. Arguably the top power-hitting prospect in the A's system, Choice's drop in power with the Rockhounds has been surprising.
Choice said he is still working on and changing several aspects of his game.
"My season has been ok," he said. "I've done a lot of experimenting this year, so it's not where I'd like it to be but whenever your tweaking things you can never expect instant success. It's all a process. With the amount of changes I've made this year I felt I've done a good job trying to adjust."
Choice said these modifications have included minor day-to-day adjustments as well.
"I come out and work hard with our hitting coach Tim Garland and we tweak things here and there," Choice said. "I'm still searching for what feels good and what's going to work."
"We've made changes with my stance. I've closed up a little bit versus starting open. Since then I have noticed a difference in the ratio of my spray chart. It's not as dominant on the right side and I can pull more balls. I think this will lead to a lot more success."
Success has generally followed Choice wherever he has suited up on the baseball diamond. At UT-Arlington, he drew fans and scouts attention alike after putting up record numbers as a Maverick in three seasons. In his first season at UT-A he was named the Southland Conference Freshman of the Year after hitting .376 with seven home runs and 51 RBI.
His junior year Choice was named the Southland Conference Player and Hitter of the Year and was named a 1st team All-American. Choice led the conference in hitting (.383 with 16 home runs and 59 RBI) and led the nation with a school and conference record 76 walks (.568 OBP). When he left UT-A he was the Mavericks' all-time home run leader (34).
The A's selected Choice in the first round of the 2010 draft (10th player selected overall). Since turning pro, Choice has been one of the A's top prospects and he has posted OPSs above 900 each of the past two seasons. He was Oakland's Co-Organizational Player of the Year (along with Jermaine Mitchell) last season and he was named to the Arizona Fall League's All-Prospect team last fall.
Last week, Choice added another major accolade to his resume last week when he was chosen to participate in the MLB Futures Game. He is one of two members of the A's organization who will participate in this year's prospect event (Zhi Fang Pan is the other).
"I was excited when I found out," Choice said. "I watched it last year. It's an honor and a really cool event to be apart of."