Before all of the losing the Twins have suffered through in recent seasons, there was a solid period of AL Central division titles, buoyed by a lot of winning. The glory days of Ron Gardenhire were filled with playoff runs, that almost always were ended by the New York Yankees; but at least they were there. This led to much deeper draft picks than the top five that Minnesota has grown accustomed to, and for one, time is running short.
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Levi Michael was selected out of the University of North Carolina by the Twins in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft. The Twins used their first round, and 30th overall, selection on the collegiate shortstop. After a strong season, and a career that culminated with appearances in the College World Series, Michael was viewed as a solid prospect.
Fast forward to 2015, and the Minnesota Twins are still waiting on the Levi Michael they drafted to show up. Having now played three seasons at the professional level, and having just barely advanced to the Double-A rung of the farm system, Michael is teetering dangerously on the bust label. At this point in his career, a utility player at the major league level appears to be the ceiling. While that is not what you want to happen for a first round draft pick, it’s surely more beneficial than the player not making it there at all.
In his first two seasons at Fort Myers, Michael never posted a higher slash line than .246/.339/.340. He skipped the lower levels of the organization as a collegiate player deemed ready to be accelerated through the system, unfortunately that didn’t come to fruition. In 2014 as a 23-year-old, Levi Michael finally reached Double-A New Britain where he slashed .340/.444/.358 across 15 games for the Rock Cats. Missing significant time due to a foot injury, Michael did show positive output slashing .313/.389/.387 across 65 games during the 2014 campaign. It now has become time for that to translate.
The expectation should be that Levi Michael finds himself starting in Double-A Chattanooga for the Twins out of the gate in 2015; after all, a 24-year-old should not be repeating Single-A Fort Myers for a third time. At Chattanooga, Michael will find himself surrounded by names like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Eddie Rosario. The pitching staff will be bolstered by solid arms, and Doug Mientkiewicz should have the cream of the Twins crop at his disposal. For Michael, he needs to rise to the top.
If Levi Michael still intends on making a major league debut at some point, finding his way to Triple-A Rochester during the 2015 season should be the goal. At 24 years old, there’s no reason for the Twins to slow play Michael if he can put things together. He could prove to be a useful bench option, and could find himself playing in the Eduardo Escobar role for the Twins. Whether or not any of that happens appears to rely solely upon him.
As the Twins have seen is years past from Michael, a season of regression is something the former Tar Heel can’t afford to endure. Should he taken significant strides backwards this season, Michael could potentially fall out of favor for the Twins altogether. At this point, it’s make or break for Michael, and if his limited sample size in 2014 is any indication, betting on him is the right side to be on.
The Twins are hoping for a return on their 2011 first round draft pick, and 2015 should be the year in which they see it from Levi Michael.
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