By Rich Arleo–
Marcus Semien, Shortstop, Oakland Athletics
2014 season (minors): 83 G, 303 AB, .267 BA, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 7 SB, .881 OPS
2014 season (majors): 64 G, 231 AB, .234 BA, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 3 SB, .673 OPS
When you take a look at Marcus Semien’s stats, nothing really jumps out at you, until you get to his on-base percentage. If you were wondering why he was the main target of Athletics GM Billy Beane in the Jeff Samardzija trade, look no further.
If you searched through the top industry prospect lists since Semien was drafted by the White Sox in the sixth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, you would find his name once — No. 91 on Baseball America’s pre-2014 list of baseball’s top 100 prospects. In parts of four Minor League seasons, Semien has hit 51 home runs with a .272 average — and a .374 OBP and .884 OPS.
Semien isn’t going to blow anyone away, but he is one of Beane’s prototypical A’s, through and through. His 8.2 percent walk rate in the Majors last year wasn’t terrible, but it was a relatively small sample size during his first extended look at Major League pitching. He had an incredible 14.5 rate in Triple-A last year and a rate of 17.4 in 105 Double-A games in 2013. There’s no doubt that Semien can get on base at an incredible rate, and his low number of strikeouts throughout his Minor League career are also great. While those are probably the best parts of his game, his power and speed are nothing to sneeze at for a shortstop, and he had 19 homers and 24 steals in between two levels in ‘13.
Yes, Semien did not post impressive numbers in the bigs last year, and that’s certainly a concern. He had a .218/.287/.327 slash line in 43 games with three homers, 16 walks and 57 strikeouts to start the year, which led the White Sox to send him back down to the Minors where he again posted his great numbers. Things are much more encouraging when you look at his September numbers with Chicago after he was recalled — .273/.333/.485 line in 21 games with three homers.
The A’s traded one of the best shortstop prospects in baseball, Addison Russell, for Samardzija last season, so Semien is the guy Beane turned Samardzija around for to hopefully take over at shortstop for the long-term. Beane also snagged shortstop Franklin Barreto — now ranked as the No. 2 prospect on the A’s by MLB.com — in the Josh Donaldson trade, so he has a plan in case Semien falls flat. But the starting shortstop position for the A’s, for now, is his to lose. If Semien can translate his high walk rate from the Minors to the Majors, he’ll probably hold on to it.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports.