Saturday, March 31, 2012

2012 Minnesota Twins Prospects #11 Levi Michael

11. Levi Michael, Shortstop, 21 years old

2011 Stats: .289/.434/.434 with 4 HRs and 14 steals in 15 attempts at the University of North Carolina.
Last year's rank: N/A
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1st round (Number 30) of the 2011 June Major League Draft out of UNC.

Last June, the Twins departed from conventional draft wisdom (at least for the Twins) by drafting a Michael in the first round. You see, Michael was a college shortstop, the Twins don't draft college position players in the first round. They draft college control pitchers or high school position players, mostly toolsy outfielders. The Twins hadn't deviated from this formula since they drafted high school pitchers Kyle Waldrop and Jay Rainville in the first round of the 2004 draft. The Twins hadn't drafted a college position player since Matty Lecroy was drafted as a catcher out of Clemsen way back in 1997.

So, why the change of philosophy? The Twins have a system full of toolsy outfielders and plenty of strike throwing pitchers, but as I pointed out way back in September of 2010, the Twins have a real dearth of middle infielders. I identified there were only 6 SS on the 40 man roster at that time and all 6 of them have moved on. The Twins really need SS depth that can play in the majors soon.

So, the Twins changed their ways and drafted for need. Michael's abilities and polish suggest the got what they needed. From ESPN's Keith Law: "Levi Michael is a 20-year-old switch-hitting shortstop who can run; unless the ankle is somehow worse than I've heard, it makes no sense to me that he fell out of the top 20, and the Twins are very fortunate that they could grab him." and Baseball America had him ranked as there 22nd prospect. So, the Twins got value at #30.

So, what did the Twins get in Michael? As a freshman, he showed decent power with 13 HRs and a .290/.382/.527 line. As a sophomore he had a great numbers with a .346/.484/.575 line including 9 HRs, 20 SBs and only 26 K's in 214 ABsHis junior year he struggled a bit, especially near the end of the season. After his great sophomore season, his .289/.434/.434 line with only 5 HRs and 47 K's looks like a real drop off, but his struggles, especially at the end of the season could be tied to his ankle injury.

Michael is very polish and almost completely developed. He has decent speed and some gap power. He's a switch hitter that can hit from both sides of the plate and he is adept at working walks. He's considered decent defensively but he may have to move to second due to lack of range. He may not have much upside, but the ability he already possesses could be good enough to become a decent major league player.

Ideal scenario: Although he signed late, Michael will most likely start his pro career in Fort Myers. There are very few middle infield prospects in the Twins system and given his ability and polish, Michael move up to New Britain mid-season.

Path to the majors: Michael has the luxury of decent ability and polish at a position of great weakness in the Twins system. If he can play decent defense at the pro level and show any on-base and gap power, Michael could be with the Twins before the end of the 2013 season. He could very well be the Twins starting shortstop or second baseman opening day 2014.

Prospect #12 and the rest of the top 50 starts here.


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