In our latest installment of prospect breakdown in preparation for the MLB draft which starts on June 6, we will take a look at a shortstop prospect, Levi Michael.
Keith Law of ESPN has Michael, a 20-year old from the University of North Carolina, headed to the New York Mets with their No. 13 pick in his latest mock draft released May 30. For what it's worth, John Sickels of SB Nation has Michael going to the Tampa Bay Rays at pick No. 32.
The ESPN scout says that he's "guessing" Sandy Alderson and Co. will take the college player here, and then spend more later on in the draft. Again, as I've said in the other draft posts, I don't have a problem with not overspending if this is the best pick the GM and the front office think they need to make.
Michael is 5-foot-10, 180-pound switch hitter in his junior season at UNC. For what it's worth, he hit 13 home runs and nine home runs in his freshman and sophomore years, respectively, while driving in a combined 111. He had a .377 OBP in 2009 and a 480 OBP in 2010, where he improved his walk-to-strikeout rate from 26:56 to 44: 26. He also has some speed, with 25 steals in 31 attempts between his freshman and sophomore year (22 of those steals coming in his sophomore year).
This year, in 57 games, he has hit just five homeruns -- with a .313/.459/.476 slash line to go along with 14 steals.
Michael has good bat speed and an excellent eye at the plate, producing contact and working the count well. He tends to meet the ball out front rather than letting it travel; between that and his size he doesn't generate much power even with some torque from his hips.
There are very few college shortstops this year who project to stay at the position and also project to hit. Michael does, which puts him at the top of the category.
The latter part of his analysis is what's important. The Mets are familiar with shortstops who don't really fit the bill -- just look at Wilmer Flores, who is quickly outgrowing the position. Though he doesn't seem like an amazing can't miss talent, the fact that he's the best of a thin shortstop class has made him a first-round pick, it seems
How Michael fits in New York: I think that the fact the Mets are even linked to him means that they recognize that middle infield is very much a need on their team. Does this mean Jose Reyes is gone for sure? Not at all. It will take Levi several years to work his way up the minor league system -- thought it does seem he's polished beyond his 20 years. If Reyes stays, maybe Michael fits in at second base; he has the frame and seemingly the make up and defensive ability to play that spot as well. The team certainly recognizes that Flores is not the future shortstop (he's just way too big) and while Ruben Tejada can stick defensively, it doesn't appear that he can hit worth a lick. Plus, Tejada has shown he can handle shortstop and second base. In addition, Reese Havens may be considered the second baseman of the future -- but he's been so injury prone and approaching 25-years-old already.
From what I've read, Michael doesn't appear to have loads of upside. He is a guy that can do a little bit of everything, though he doesn't possess a ton of power (which middle infielders don't always have), but he can wield a decent stick, and he doesn't have a ton of speed. He seems like the type of player who could move pretty quickly up a minor-league system. I'd be OK with the pick, but I'd prefer if the front office takes a chance with someone with a bit more upside. Again, nearly any pick they make is going to fill a need, but this doesn't excite me much.