For all the talk about unanswered questions as Opening Day approaches in less than two weeks, I've failed in some ways to talk about one of the biggest questions that has been answered.
Specifically, the status of Michael Choice as a minor league player or Major League roster member seems to have been settled. Sure, I posted up a quip over the weekend, but I'm not too sure that did Choice justice. In fact, I would go as far as to say he is making any "decision" the Rangers might have needed to make on his status an easy one.
When the Rangers acquired Choice from Oakland in exchange for Craig Gentry over the winter, fan reaction was mostly split on the decision, and for good reason, and Gentry was a fan favorite, even if his stints of playing time in Arlington were sometimes sporadic.
After Shin-Soo Choo was signed, the role of Choice became even a bit more questionable, as a full outfield and Engel Beltre waiting in the wings seemed to leave Choice on the outside looking in. That was, unless he was able to prove that he's ready to help the big league ball club now. Coincidentally, that's exactly what he's done to this point of Spring Training.
To this point, Michael Choice has compiled an OPS of 1.070 on a 14-for-37 showing, which has made him arguably one of the biggest non-injury stories of camp. At the very least, he's earned a bench role -- likely as a fourth outfielder -- and he seems OK with that.
I’m a big boy. I’ve played at literally every single level you can possibly play at. What I do every day is I come to the field and work on my craft. I don’t think how many ABs I get will affect performance by any means because when you prepare properly, you know you’ve done everything you can to be successful.
There's a decent chance the he'll also serve as the right-handed DH, a role that may be expanded for him at the beginning of the season if Mitch Moreland is unable to go by Opening Day after an injury in last night's game against the Royals. If that is indeed the case, the organization may still try to find a way to hang onto Engel Beltre as well.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of Choice's performance so far -- at least to me -- has been that the Rangers have used him quite often in center field. Leonys Martin comes in as the everyday center fielder, but you wonder if a subtle message is being sent that, should he struggle, the Rangers are confident that they have options.
There's power in numbers, and numbers are something the Rangers have should they manage to keep both Choice and Beltre on the Major League roster to open the season. Is Choice surprised by all of this? Not a chance.
It’s not a shocker or a surprise to me because I’ve put in the work. It’s one thing if you’re not doing everything you can. I feel like I’ve put in the work. At the end of the day the deciding factor is not really up to you. All you can do is just go play hard and that’s been my main goal.
For his part, Ron Washington seems to appreciate what Michael Choice brings to the table, and Gerry Fraley speculates in a piece published Sunday evening that Wash has even perhaps compared Choice to Kirby Puckett.
While those types of comparisons are always fun, the Rangers would just be thrilled if Choice remains every bit as consistent and versataile as he has shown in Spring Training. Having played all three outfield spots and offering DH potential, he could end up providing a spark for the team during the season.
If that turns out to be the case, it could end up being a defining moment in the career of Jan Daniels as the GM of your Texas Rangers.