I enjoy the prospect world. The prospect world is filled with unknown quantities. However, the unknown is exciting to me. I can set my expectations wherever I want them to be. I rarely see Twins prospects play prior to their first appearance in a Twins uniform. Yet, I can’t help but be fascinated by these players, many of whom I will never see even once. My goal for these Twin of the Future profiles is to highlight players that aren’t considered top tier prospects. There is a hint of irony in the title, as many of these players will never actually play a game in a Twins uniform. Previously, I wrote about a slick-fielding, strong-armed shortstop named Niko Goodrum. After that, I wrote about Joe Benson, a player who has donned a Twins uniform, but also has created doubts about whether he will ever suit up again.
Levi Michael shouldn’t be a part of this series. Michael was selected in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft. He was a college junior, and was said to be a low-floor, low-ceiling player, but one who could contribute for an MLB team in some capacity, and quickly to boot. Michael wasn’t a 16 year old kid. He was a seasoned baseball player, who had demonstrated enough skills at the University of North Carolina to be considered a safe pick. He also projected to be a useful player, one who could possibly contribute all around the infield.
Michael is a switch hitter, with a line drive swing from both sides of the plate. He has good, but not great speed and he could handle the shortstop position in college. He had good plate discipline, as he walked 90 times in 115 games as a college sophomore and junior. He didn’t have much power, and his slight frame doesn’t really indicate future power. However, he had enough skills to be considered one of the safest picks in the 2011 draft. I saw rumors that he was being considered in the early to mid-teens before landing at pick 30 with the Twins.
This all sounds pretty nice, right? So what is Levi Michael doing in this space?
Levi Michael isn’t prominently featured as a top prospect in the Twins’ system. This seems odd for a player with such an attainable ceiling and recent draft history. As expected, Michael started at High A Fort Myers in 2012. While there, he was pretty much the player he was in college, just up against different competition. He still had good, but not great speed. He still had good on-base skills. He still had basically no power. He spent half of the season as the team’s second baseman, replaced at times by fellow prospect Daniel Santana at the shortstop position.
If Michael was what he was expected to be, why has his prospect luster worn so quickly?
He isn’t a new toy anymore. Going into 2012, the Twins farm system wasn’t considered anything to write home about. Going into 2013, there is more optimism. Aaron Hicks bounced back. Byron Buxton and J.O. Berrios were drafted. Daniel Santana, Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco became legitimate prospects. Levi Michael didn’t do anything to stand out, and that is enough to lose a bit of the shine that comes with his 1st round pedigree. He fell down the middle infield prospect ladder, and now has multiple players he will need to prove his worth against, to be given a path to the MLB.
At his peak, Levi Michael could still be an MLB shortstop. However, many feel that second base is a better position for his skill set, as he doesn’t have the natural range that most shortstops possess. In addition, there are more interesting options in the system at that position. He is more than capable at second base. A second baseman with good on-base skills and little power has value. The Twins love to plug a light hitting middle infielder in the 2 hole of the lineup. Michael actually profiles as a player who could hit in that spot. Michael could provide on-base skills that lead to many run producing opportunities for the 3-4-5 hitters.
Michael will never set the world on fire. He likely will never be considered a top prospect. However, I still see Michael wearing a Twins uniform within the next few years. Everything I read seems to indicate that he has great makeup and his advanced approach should still allow him to move quickly through the system. Honestly, he could end up being a better version of Brian Dozier, without the hype that he can’t live up to. Perception is reality, and Michael might be the rare prospect with realistic expectations. If fans can temper expectations that come with a typical first round draft pick, they could be pleasantly surprised with this former first round pick’s future contributions.
What are you looking for from this former 1st round pick? Let me know on Twitter – @bridman77 or in the comments below.