The Oakland A's sent outfield prospect Michael Choice and second baseman Chris Bostick to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday afternoon for outfielder Craig Gentry and reliever Josh Lindblom in what turned out to be one of the more minor moves on a crazy Hot Stove day. Despite being overshadowed, however, this is a move that can be looked at in a lot of different ways. Inevitably, however, this deal will be viewed based on the development of Choice.
Choice is a former first round pick, selected 10th overall in 2010. He busted out of the gate in his first full season in 2011, hitting .285/.376/.542 in the California League with 30 home runs. There was some swing-and-miss in his game, but with that kind of power, it's quite acceptable.
Unfortunately for Choice, that power hasn't translated as well in the upper levels of the minors. Whether it's the affect of leaving the California League or facing tougher pitching (or likely a combination of the two), Choice's power production has dropped off significantly over the past two seasons. His isolated slugging percentage, which had been .257 in 2011, dropped to .136 in 2012 and .143 in 2013. He did fracture his hand in July of 2012 and cost him the remainder of his season, but that would only be an excuse for 2013's drop in power.
More likely, however, is that his raw power, which is still very much in tact, simply didn't translate well against better pitching. Luckily for Choice, even without using his power to its full extent, he still has more than most players. Said Nick Faleras of Baseball Prospectus about Choice:
"The bat jabs in and out of the zone quickly, however, and utilizes little in the way of swing plane/pitch plane overlap. The result is a fair amount of swing-and-miss and more frequent soft contact as he’s climbed the developmental ladder to face arms more capable of exploiting his shortcomings via quality off-speed and breaking stuff."
That scouting report explains exactly why Choice has been less productive at the upper levels. The jump to Double-A is the toughest for a hitter because of the improvement in pitcher's breaking pitches. The good news for the Rangers is that, even with his power only playing up to about half of it's capacity, Choice has still remained a productive hitter.
His strikeout rates are high, but not egregiously so, allowing him to still put the ball in play enough to hit for a respectable average. He is a patient hitter at the plate, which leads to some of his strikeouts but also a fair amount of walks. If he makes the proper adjustments to major league pitching, there's no reason he can't be a 25 home run guy and an everyday left fielder.
A note on the trade itself: Bostick is hardly a throw-in and profiles as a potential regular second baseman, albeit one who is still quite far away from the majors having just completed his first year of full-season ball. He ranked eighth on Baseball Prospectus' A's Top-10 just a month ago. He has decent pop at the plate and a solid hit tool that could translate well as he moves up the Rangers ladder, adding to their already crowded stable of up-the-middle prospects.
Gentry will be used properly by the platoon-friendly A's, so he should be productive, but theres a decent chance Choice is the more productive player in 2014. Still, it didn't appear the A's were prepared to hand over a starting job to Choice while the Rangers are, so the trade allows both teams to be more comfortable with their plans, while the A's added a usable bullpen piece, which has been a theme of their off-season.