It's probably not fair to describe the Twins' selection of Levi Michael in the first round of the amateur draft Monday as a "need pick." He was generally reckoned to be worth a mid first-round pick, and the Twins got him near the end of the first round, about 10 picks lower than most mock drafts had him projected.
He may well have been "the best player available," impossible to gauge as that is in a field of amateurs of various ages, skill sets and experience.
But the choice is being well-received in Twins blogdom BECAUSE he is a collegiate shortstop, and thus perceived as (a) nearly major-league ready (b) at a position at which the major league team is searching for an answer without a clear option in the upper levels of its farm system. (OK, here's a lukewarm reception.)
Which sure sounds like a need pick.
Point B is clearly true. The Alexi Casilla tease is back on -- Casilla's hot streak at the plate has jacked his batting average above the .250 mark, and he's making good decisions at short. Had he played in the field in April and May the way he has in the past week, shortstop would not be reckoned a disaster area. But one week of stellar play doesn't override the long stretch of lousy play, and Casilla has lost the benefit of the doubt. Tsuyoshi Nishioka is playing shortstop on his rehab assignment, and he's going to get the job when he's activated.
Point A -- that Michael is close to ready -- is far from established. He is young for a college pick -- he graduated high school a semester early, and spent what would have been his senior season of high school ball playing second base for North Carolina. He has one (injury-hampered) season at short in college, and the scouts are apparently not completely sold on him as a shortstop.
He'll start, once he signs (which won't be immediate), in the intermediate levels of the farm system, possibly at high A Fort Myers. There he'll not only have to display the physical tools to play shortstop but the judgment.
It's the latter that probably matters most. A shortstop only needs enough ability to make the plays that are there to make and the judgment to know what that play is. It was judgment that made Greg Gagne an outstanding shortstop; it is judgment that wins Gold Gloves for Derek Jeter. And it is a lack of judgment that has repeatedly undermined Casilla and Trevor Plouffe.
If Michael displays that judgment once he enters the system, he may well rocket up the ladder. But the Twins have been stocking the lower levels of their minors in the past year or so with shortstop possibilities, many of them as foreign signees, and some of them (James Beresford and Brian Dozier) are at or above the level at which Michael will enter.
In short, Michael faces more competition in the system that most of us realize.