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Twins select versatile Michael with first pick

June 6, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — Levi Michael said he was “super surprised” to hear his name called.

When he did, it was because the Minnesota Twins selected the junior shortstop from the University of North Carolina, with the 30th pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

“The wait, the anticipation was building up,” Michael said in a conference call with reporters after he was picked. “As soon as I heard I was picked by the Twins, it was a huge sigh of relief. I’m really excited about it and looking forward to it.”

Michael was the first college position player selected by the Twins in the first round of the draft since the club tabbed San Diego State first baseman Travis Lee with the second-overall pick in 1996.

The selection marks a departure for the Twins from their recent history of selecting college pitchers and high school athletes early in the draft. The Twins’ next two selections fell into line with that history — they grabbed prep third baseman Travis Harrison out of Tustin High School (Calif.) and right-hander Hudson Boyd from Bishop Verot High School (Fla.). But Michael gave them good reason to stray from that pattern.

“Picking No. 30, it’s just whomever is left,” said Twins scouting director Deron Johnson. “It was nice. Maybe we changed some things up. … Kept people guessing this year, I would guess.”

Michael has hit .309 in his three-year college career with the Tar Heels, collecting 43 doubles and 11 triples with 27 home runs and 159 RBIs. UNC is still alive in the postseason, having moved on to face Stanford in the NCAA Super Regional after sweeping the Chapel Hill regional. The Tar Heels will host the Cardinal on Friday at 2 p.m. CT on ESPN2 in the first game of the best-of-three series.

Michael lifted the Tar Heels from their regional with a 9-3 win over James Madison University on Sunday. He snapped a 3-3 tie — as well as a personal 0-for-12 skid — when he doubled and scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.

A switch-hitter, Michael’s offensive production dipped a bit this season as he played through an ankle injury. He is hitting .297 for the season with five home runs, 14 doubles, three triples and a .444 on-base percentage. Michael led the Tar Heels in most offensive categories last season, when he hit .346 with a .480 OBP and 19 home runs. He hit 13 home runs during his freshman season, to go along with a .290 average.

While Michael has some speed as well as a middle infielder and stole 35 bases in 38 attempts over the past two seasons, Johnson said he is “not just some Punch-and-Judy hitter.”

While he was excited to be drafted by the Twins, Michael said his top focus right now is the Tar Heels’ next opponent, which stands between them and the College World Series.

“I’m looking forward to continuing and finishing out this season,” Michael said. “Hopefully we make it back to Omaha this year.”

Michael is a versatile infielder, having played second base as a freshman and third base as a sophomore before moving to shortstop this season.

He said that he is most comfortable playing one of the middle infield positions. The Twins’ plans for Michael fall in line with that. They like Michael’s defensive skills, especially his lateral quickness, range in both directions and his speed.

“At the least, in our minds, he’s got the ability to play second base as well,” Johnson said. “But we see him as an everyday guy, so he’s either going to play shortstop or second base.”

Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft resumes at 11 a.m. CT Tuesday on MLB.com, where fans will receive exclusive coverage of Days 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player.

You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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