When it comes to their first round and supplemental round picks, the Minnesota Twins have settled into a clearly defined pattern. Their organization philosophy clearly drives them to target college pitchers and high school position players, but that changed this season when they nabbed University of North Carolina SS Levi Michael with their first pick. He becomes the first college position player to be drafted in the first round since 1997 when the Twins chose Clemson University C Matt LeCroy in the supplemental round (50th overall).
Also of note is their selection of Bishop Verot HS (Fort Myers, FL) RHP Hudson Boyd. Selected 55th overall, he became the first high school pitcher drafted by the Twins before the 2nd round since 2004. That year they took RHP Kyle Waldrop 25th overall out of Farragut HS in Knoxville, Tennessee. It’s a fun side note, but today my focus is on Michael.
He had a bit of a down season in 2011 but that applies to most position players due to the changes in the rules regarding bats. In his case, however he also dealt with an ankle injury which helped hold down his numbers a bit. When fully healthy, he was widely regarded as being worthy of a top-20 selection even in this year’s very deep and very talented draft class.
Just based on the pre-draft rankings and opinion, the Twins got good value with their 1st round selection. He was considered the top college SS available in the draft and should be able to move through the minors quickly so he also fills a bit of an organizational need. The expectation is that he will be able to stick at SS but if he does need to move he already has a great deal of positional versatility. He spent his freshman year with the Tarheels at 2B and then played his sophomore year at 3B before finding a home at SS in his junior season. Not only is he capable of playing all three positions, he is also capable of being an asset defensively at any of the three though there are some questions about his range and his arm strength.
As you can see from the stats below the switch-hitting Michael is very patient at the plate and has a very advanced concept of the strike zone for a 20-year old. He combines his patience with a good approach and naturally hits to all fields. Blessed with above average speed, he has the makings of a top of the order hitter.
The Stats (College)
2009: 252 AB, 0.298/.386/.544, 5 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 4 SB, 16 BB, 36 SO
2010: 214 AB, 0.346/.480/.575, 14 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 20 SB, 44 BB, 26 SO
2011: 242 AB, 0.289/.434/.434, 14 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 15 SB, 49 BB, 47 SO
There are some questions about his range and his arm strength so while he may wind up being “capable” of playing SS, 2B may be a more natural long-term fit and one that will allow him to maximize his ability. Whether he winds up at second or short, he fits in the Twins plans in the field as they lack a long-term answer at either position. At the plate, he has the tools to hit leadoff but may have even greater value as an ideal #2 hitter.
Unfortunately he waited until the deadline to sign for $1.175 million and has not appeared in a game as a professional. Given the expectation that he should be able to move through the minor leagues quickly this may have been a gross miscalculation on the part of himself and his representation. It continues to be a source of great frustration that more players don’t follow the path that Kolten Wong and Cory Spangenberg took by signing early. Wong had no trouble with Midwest League (A) pitching while Spangenberg found success in the Northwest (A-) and Midwest (A) Leagues. Both should open the 2012 season in high Class-A, and in Wong’s case an assignment to Double-A isn’t out of the question. There’s no doubt in my mind that Levi Michael would have benefited greatly from such a move but as it is we will have to wait until 2012 for him to make his debut, most likely with the Beloit Snappers (A).
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