Outfielder Michael Choice wasn't drafted out of high school in 2007, but three standout seasons at the University of Texas-Arlington put him higher on the radar.
The A's were unsure if Choice would fall to them Monday in the first round of Major League Baseball's amateur draft. He did, and they grabbed him with the 10th overall pick, their only selection on the draft's first day.
Choice, the Southland Conference Player of the Year as a junior this season, was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 2 power-hitting prospect among college hitters. That potential caught the A's attention as they continue efforts to stock their farm system with more power bats.
"We're excited," A's scouting director Eric Kubota said. "We think he's a college bat that comes with upside and tremendous power potential. Over the past month to six weeks, we didn't think he was going to get (to No. 10). We were pleasantly surprised."
Choice hit .383 with 16 homers and 59 RBIs this season and batted .392 overall in 166 college games. A center fielder for UT-Arlington, some evaluators think he's best suited for a corner outfield spot.
"We think he's athletic enough that he can stay (in center)," Kubota said. "At the very worst, we think he can be a very good outfielder in left or right."
Choice, 20, when asked if he had a time frame, said he'd like to make it to the majors in two years.
"I definitely prefer to stay (in center), but if it doesn't
Choice, who bats and throws right-handed, said he's eager to get his pro career started, and figures to be quick to sign.
Last year's No. 10 pick, former Stanford pitcher Drew Storen, received a $1.6 million signing bonus from the Washington Nationals. That was actually below MLB's recommended salary slot for the 10th pick. Choice reportedly won't make high bonus demands.
UT-Arlington, a Division I baseball program, is hardly high profile, but it's produced several major leaguers, including Red Sox pitcher John Lackey and Astros outfielder Hunter Pence. Mavericks coach Darin Thomas, who began coaching at the school in 2001, said Choice ranks ahead of the program's other standout alumni if the criteria are career numbers.
"It didn't matter if we were playing Texas A&M, Texas or TCU in our nonconference schedule," Thomas said. "He hit."
Thomas also praised Choice's arm. Choice made two relief appearances this season and clocked a fastball in the 90-92 mph range.
The draft continues today and concludes Wednesday. The A's next three selections come at 60th, 92nd and 125th.