Semien remains strong infield option for White Sox
Chicago White Sox infield prospect Marcus Semien made a meteoric rise to the Major Leagues, getting his first callup last Sept. 4
Semien, then just 22 years old, had played just 304 Minor League games covering parts of three seasons in the White Sox farm system. At the time of his promotion, Semien had 1,375 plate appearances that yielded a career batting average of .274.
The White Sox first drafted Semien in the 34th round out of St. Mary's High School in Berkeley, Calif., in 2008. He had fashioned a .371 batting average as a senior, with five home runs and 27 RBIs. Semien also stole 14 bases. As a junior, he hit .471, so he had established himself as a darn good hitting prep shortstop.
Instead of signing with the White Sox, Semien chose to attend nearby University of California, the alma mater of his father Damien, who played wide receiver on the Bears' football team from 1990-93.
Semien's outstanding collegiate career earned him another chance at becoming a member of the White Sox. The second time was a charm. Semien signed with Chicago after having been selected in the sixth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Semien is No. 8 on the White Sox Top 20 Prospects list. The right-handed-hitting Semien is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds. He has likely reached his maximum physical development, with little room for additional growth.
Semien has the ability to play anywhere in the infield, with the exception of first base. His favorite position is shortstop, but he can also play second base and third base with effective results.
After watching Semien play second base during his month with the White Sox last September, I saw him at shortstop in the Arizona Fall League. He certainly held his own defensively.
While some may say the White Sox rushed Semien to the parent club, he certainly played well enough to garner another look and remain on the team's radar for the 2014 season.
In his 71 plate appearances for the White Sox, Semien hit .261 with two homers and seven RBIs. He stole two bases while being caught twice as well. Semien walked only once. That was a bit unlike his past in the Minor Leagues.
In the 2013 season, prior to being promoted to the White Sox, Semien had earned 98 walks combined at Double-A Birmingham (84) and Triple-A Charlotte (14). His high walk rate was one of the factors that encouraged me about his ability to be a top-of-the-order table-setting hitter. Semien has shown good pitch recognition, outstanding plate discipline and mature patience at the plate.
I did not see the same Semien in the Fall League that I saw at the end of the 2013 season with the White Sox. When I saw him in Arizona, he looked a bit tired at the plate. Semien's bat was slow. He labored with his swing and hit only .156 over 89 plate appearances in 21 games
Of Semien's 12 Fall League hits, three were doubles and two were home runs. Both his homers came in the same game, on Oct. 28 against Surprise. Semien struck out 23 times and walked 10 times as well.
Semien has a nice, short stroke that he uses to drive the ball to the middle of the field. He has the potential to hit for a solid average.
Not a burner on the bases, Semien has enough speed to carry him for an extra base upon occasion, but I don't see him as a consistent stolen-base threat.
Defensively, Semien has good range and quickness, with an average arm. I'm not sure he has enough arm strength to be a factor at third base. However, I do think Semien could fill in at that position if needed.
I believe Semien fits best as a second baseman. His footwork, good hands and fine athletic instincts work well at that position.
This Spring Training may help determine if Semien was the player we saw in Chicago at the end of the season or the one I saw in Arizona this fall. But he's still only 23.
There is a major factor in his favor. Semien feasts against left-handed pitching. That's one reason I believe he is best suited in a utility role with a solid bat, a good glove and enough speed to help his club. I'm not sure Semien has enough skill or one outstanding component in his toolbox to claim an everyday role.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.