Mar 5, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox shortstopMarcus Semien
(5) makes the off balance throw against the San Diego Padres during the fourth inning at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
In the next year or two, the Chicago White Sox will have a couple of decisions to make in the middle of their infield. Alexei Ramirez is signed through 2015 with a team option for the 2016 season, and Gordon Beckham is slated to be a free agent after the 2015 season.
Neither player has been overly impressive offensively, especially recently. Ramirez has gone from a player with the capability to hit 15 to 20 home runs to someone whose value is strictly related to his ability to steal bases. At age 32, and with a career OBP of .315, Ramirez may not get on base enough to justify his value. Beckham has regressed each year since his solid rookie performance, and it may be time for a change of scenery.
As it turns out, the White Sox may have an option to replace either should they trade one or the other. Marcus Semien had actually been drafted by the White Sox twice, in the 34th round of the MLB Amateur Draft in 2008 and again in the 6th round in 2011 before signing. After putting together solid seasons in 2011 and 2012, Semien broke out last year. Across two levels, Semien posted a .284/.401/.479 with 19 home runs and 24 stolen bases, walking 98 times with 90 strikeouts. Semien even made his major league debut last year, producing a .261/.268/.406 batting line with two home runs and two stolen bases. His excellent batting eye did not translate to the major league level in his brief trial, as he walked only once while striking out 22 times in 69 at bats.
At only 23 heading into the 2014 season, Seimen needs more time in the minor leagues to refine his game, having played only 32 games at the AAA level last year. Chances are, Semien will start the season back with the Charlotte Knights in an attempt to build upon his excellent 2014 performance. Even if he does not perform at the same overall level he did last year, a repeat of his .264/.338/.464 batting line for Charlotte would bode well for his future.
Another key for Marcus Semien next year will be how he handles playing multiple positions. Originally drafted as a shortstop, Semien played 28 games at second prior to last season. In 2013, Semien split his time between three positions, playing 73 games at short, 41 games at second and 23 games at third. During his time in the majors, Semien played almost exclusively at third, playing 17 games with 13 starts, at the position.
Should Marcus Semien perform well in Charlotte to begin the 2014 season, he could find his way back to the major league level quickly, especially if Jeff Keppinger requires a lengthy stay on the disabled list with his shoulder issues. His performance there could be a springboard for 2015 and beyond.