When the members of all the major league organizations descend upon Arizona and Florida in February each year to report for Spring Training there are a myriad of motivations for each player. What everyone is looking to accomplish during their time in Spring Training varies on a case by case basis; some are just looking to get back in everyday baseball shape for the regular season, some are trying to latch on with a club in perhaps their last gasp at making the Show, and some are just there to get their feet wet and experience what it’s like to play with the best players in the world on a daily basis. In Athletics camp there are two players in particular that are there for that very reason, given a little taste of the big leagues so they know what it’s like when they’re back there with a real chance of making an impact on baseball’s biggest stage. Those two players are Addison Russell and Michael Choice.
The two of them are coming from different directions as they embark on the 2013 season. Russell is fresh out of high school, at just 19 years old, he’s the youngest player in any major league camp. Choice is coming off an injury plagued season that saw his top prospect status plummet, and he’s out to prove once again he is a future star. What the two have in common though is that they’ve both impressed all observers.
The impression Michael Choice has made can be clearly seen by looking at his Spring Training stat sheet. It’s been well documented how insignificant I generally think stats during the spring are, but in the case of a young player like Choice, they are meaningful. He’s appeared in 12 games, and started 5 thus far, most of his playing time has been in center field. He’s posted a .414/.419/.655 slash line over 31 plate appearances. He has homered twice, but technically did so just the one time since his second of the spring was washed away on Friday. He’s generating the same type of power that he did in 2011 with the Stockton Ports, and Athletics fans should be excited by what they’ve seen from Michael Choice this spring as he heads to Sacramento to play for the Rivercats once the minor league season gets underway.
For Addison Russell, everything he is experiencing is new. Having just been drafted last June out of high school, he’s extremely young and extremely raw, but he’s also extremely talented. His playing time has been much less significant than Choice’s, with just 17 plate appearances over 6 games. His slash line doesn’t stand out necessarily at .250/.294/.313. But he’s shown a level of maturity beyond his years, and has already gained valuable experience. Saturday afternoon he learned a lesson the hard way when he started for first base on a presumed ball four, only to be called back when the umpire called strike two. On the A’s radio broadcast Ray Fosse remarked that anything close to the plate would almost certainly be called a strike on the youngster. That was exactly what happened, and Russell was rung up. It was a lesson learned that he’ll surely not forget.
The optimism that surrounds the Athletics because of their great success in 2012 and the potential for even greater success in 2013 extends throughout the organization. While the cupboard might be somewhat empty at the moment due to the trades of the offseason and the promotion to Oakland of many young talented players, the presence of Addison Russell and Michael Choice in the system is reason for continued optimism. Choice could potentially make an appearance in Oakland sometime this year if everything goes well in Sacramento and all the stars align, and Russell could find himself in Oakland by late 2014 or 2015 if his development continues at this rate. The two of them present all the more reason for A’s fans to feel good about the direction of the organization.