Top Chicago White Sox prospects before they decided to rebuild

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Chicago White Sox Luis Robert
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Marcus Semien 2013 – #8 prospect

After he was drafted in the sixth round, 201st overall, in 2011, Marcus Semien was ranked 19th in the White Sox Top Prospects just a year later. After a stellar 2012 season at Winston-Salem, .273/.362/.471 with .833 OPS, he shot his way up the system.

His speed and fielding ability made him stand out. He had a bit of pop in his bat but was more of a singles guy. Strangely enough, his slugging percentage never dipped below .400 in the minors. He was driving the ball when he needed to, but he had always put up inconsistent numbers. He had high numbers one year and low numbers the next but the scouts chalked it up to the minor injuries he sustained in high school and at Cal Berkeley.

In 2013, he was ranked 8th in the system by MLB. The White Sox were in desperate need of offensive help on the bench, so Semien was called up. With solidified shortstop Alexei Ramirez and exciting prospect Gordon Beckham at second, there was no room for him in the middle infield. Of course, Beckham should never have been moved but that is a different discussion. In short, Semien would not get much playing time with the White Sox.

He was called up at 22 in 2013 and only had 69 at-bats where he hit a mere .261 with .673 OPS. He would get 231 at-bats in 2014 but it was more of the same. After the 2014 season, the Sox needed starting pitching help and Semien was expendable. He was someone a potential White Sox championship team can live without. So he was traded to Oakland along with RHP prospect Chris Bassitt for Jeff Samardzija.

In Oakland, Semien was that everyday starter at shortstop he did not get to be in Chicago. From 2015 through 2018 he was pretty much the same mediocre player. He was able to find that consistency but in a pretty average way. His OPS through ’15-18 are .715, .735, .722, and .706. 2019 was a little bit different for him.

With the label on him as a mediocre player, it came as a bit of a surprise when Semien would finally get that breakout year he was looking for. At 28 years old and about 5 years of MLB service time, Semien put up a slash of .285/.369/.522 with an OPS of .892, 139 OPS+. He hit 33 home runs and drove in 92 runs. He also led the MLB in plate appearances because he played in all 162 games.

On top of his 187 hits, 43 doubles, and seven triples, he finished third in MVP voting. Only Alex Bregman and Mike Trout finished ahead of him. Despite his great season, it was not enough to get an extension from Oakland, despite mutual discussions.

After a huge step backward in 2020 where he posted a .679 OPS in 53 games, Semien was let go after the A’s declined his $18.9 million qualifying offer. A few teams were in the mix, even Oakland wanted a reunion, but last week Semien signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays for $18 million. Seeing as Bo Bichette will probably stay at shortstop, Semien could slide over to third. However, he has not manned the hot corner since his southside days nearly a decade ago. Second-base is also an option.

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