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Eric R Pleiss

2011 Minnesota Twins First Round Draft Pick Levi Michael

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This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com.

The last time the Twins were any good (2010) they were swept out of the post season once again by the New York Yankees. The Twins finished that season with 84 wins, 4th best in all of baseball. They were rewarded for their success with the 30th selection in the 2011 draft. With that pick they selected Levi Michael.

At the time of the draft Levi Michael and the University of North Caroline Tar Heels were playing their way into the College World Series (where they promptly made a two game exit). Levi Michael was in the midst of a fairly strong junior season (.289/.434/.434 (BA/OBP/SLG)), but he dealt with an ankle injury early on in that season which nagged him for a good part of the year. His sophomore season at UNC was his best, hitting .343/.484/.575 and ranked as the 13th best hitter in the ACC. While Michael was never projected to be a power hitter, his on-base skills (more walks than strikeouts 47/41) and his speed, coupled with pretty decent range on the defensive side of the ball made him one of, if not the top shortstops in the draft.


PHOTO BY SCOTT BUTHERUS, NAPLES NEWS

Selecting Levi Michael was a departure from the Twins' usual draft strategy of drafting toolsy high schoolers (think Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks) and college arms (Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers), and was their first college position player taken since Travis Lee in 1996.* Perhaps the Twins selected Michael understanding that he was one of the best players available to them with the 30th pick and they certainly had a system void of shortstops with high upsides.

The Twins signed Michael late for $1.75 million and despite not having a chance to play competitive baseball for the Twins in 2011, they started him at High A playing a combination of shortstop and second base for the Ft. Myers Miracle. Going into 2012 Baseball America rated Michael as the Twins 6th best prospect. TheTwins' rationale at the time had to be that Levi Michael was a polished college player who should not have much trouble adjusting to professional baseball, and could rise quickly through the Twins MiLB system.

*The Twins whiffed on Lee in 1996, failing to sign him in the two weeks following the draft. He eventually signed a $10 million dollar 4-year contract with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks and was their starting first basemen in their inaugural season in 1998 (and came in 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting). Lee posted a career bWAR of 5.3.

Read about Levi Michael's 2012 season at Knuckleballs
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