September 3, 2013
The Situation: After posting a strong .302/.390/.445 slash line in 132 games at Triple-A Sacramento, Choice has received his first call to Oakland. It’s a true September call-up, as Choice isn’t being brought up with the expectation that he’ll receive regular at-bats in the club’s chase for a postseason berth. As reported by A’s beat writer Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Choice’s call “is a reward for a solid season by a high-profile prospect.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean Choice can’t make an impact or work his way into some playing time. Oakland’s outfield situation is tenuous at present, with Chris Young and Seth Smith underperforming while Josh Reddick is on the shelf for at least another week. As a result, regular first baseman Brandon Moss has taken over in right field––filling in for Reddick––with Daric Barton and Nate Freiman working the first-base platoon. While the unstable situation could yield a slight window of opportunity for Choice, it’s more likely that his first serious look comes next spring.
Background: The 10th-overall pick in 2010, Choice is a Dallas-Fort Worth native who played his collegiate ball at UT-Arlington. A catcher and pitcher through his high school career, Choice wasn’t heavily recruited by Division I programs but went on to hit .392 with a school-record 34 home runs in three seasons for the Mavericks, turning himself into a first-round pick.
Choice’s successful run through the minors included a .285 performance with 30 home runs at High-A Stockton in 2011, and he posted a .287/.356/.423 slash line in 91 games at Double-A Midland last year before a broken hand ended his season in July. The 23-year-old outfielder had little trouble rebounding in Triple-A this year, however, and he improved as >the minor-league season progressed; Choice hit .323/.408/.481 in 41 games after the Triple-A All-Star break. He entered this season as Oakland’s no. 2 prospect and no. 82 in baseball.
Scouting Report: Choice most likely profiles as a role-5 player, meaning he’s an average everyday regular at a corner outfield spot. While he may not see regular playing time until next season, the 6-foot, 215-pound prospect should provide an upgrade to the Athletics lineup when he does. He’s certainly not far away from being major-league ready, as this year’s Triple-A numbers suggest.
According to multiple scouts, Choice has altered his approach slightly this year to cut down on his strikeout rate; it has shrunk from 24.7 percent at High-A in 2011 to 19.2 percent in Triple-A this year. His power has taken a slight hit as a result, though the general feel for scouts is that it’ll benefit him in the long run. Choice should still end up with 60-grade (plus) game power and a 50-grade (average) hit tool that includes good on-base skills. While he’ll likely always have at least some whiff in his game, the Texan has a strong frame with outstanding bat speed that has enabled him to make adjustments at the upper levels.
A center fielder through much of his collegiate and professional career, Choice has begun seeing regular action in left field over the last two months. His 40-grade (below average) speed gives him a corner-outfield profile, though he gets good reads and jumps up the middle and can still play center in a pinch. His average arm strength can play at all three spots. Scouts have questioned Choice’s body in the past––he showed up heavy in spring training 2012––but the prospect has since gotten back into shape, and he has maintained his athleticism pretty well thus far. —Jason Cole
Fantasy Impact: There are plenty of major-league teams who could give real playing time to an outfield bat like Choice's at this point, but unfortunately for fantasy speculators, the A's are not currently on that list. It's also not the greatest place to end up for a right-handed power hitter like Choice, given the home run limiting tendencies of O.co Coliseum. But as we've seen over the last two seasons, power is not the only part of Choice's game.
As he's moved up the ladder towards the major leagues, Choice has increased his contact rate every step of the way—moving from a 35.5 percent strikeout rate at Low-A to 19.2 percent this season at Triple-A. And it's allowed him to hit .290 for his minor-league career. But whether that comes at the price of his power is yet to be determined. His 24 combined homers in 2012 and 2013 are still well short of the 30 he hit in the California League back in 2011. But then again, Cal League power numbers often require pounds of salt.
In redraft leagues, Choice is best left for AL-only formats given the lack of playing time he's expected to receive. And even in those leagues, he's not at the top of the list of interesting September call ups to bid on, and a $2-3 bid seems reasonable given the potential for him to hit a couple of homers in September. In keeper/dynasty leagues, he makes for a good target in 12-team mixed leagues and deeper—especially if you have the luxury of a deep bench. Even though a .270 hitter with 20 homer power isn't the type of player you would build a team around, he's able to provide enough value to keep around. And there's upside beyond that, in both categories. —Bret Sayre
Jason Cole is an author of Baseball Prospectus.