Back in December, the Chicago White Sox acquired Jeff Samardzija from Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics. The main piece going back to the A's was 24-year-old Marcus Semien, who slashed .234/.300/.372 with six home runs, 30 runs, 28 RBI and three steals in 255 plate appearances on the south side. Semien, who can play both bot middle infield positions and third base, will most likely spend his time at short for Oakland.
His playing time was again in question following the A's acquisition of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar, but the latter has since been shipped to Washington. That means Semien should receive a fair shot of sticking in a starting role, with Zobrist manning the keystone on most days.
Semien comes from a fairly light pedigree, a late sixth-round pick of the White Sox in the 2011 amateur draft. In about half a season (83 games) between 2013 and 2014, Semien owns a .240/.293/.380 line with 24 extra-base hits, including eight home runs, and five steals. In four seasons on the farm, we see Semien has a much more impressive .267/.368/.456 line with 53 home runs and 45 steals in 1,829 plate appearances, showing his unique skill set of both power and speed.
That batting line held true at Triple-A Charlotte last year, where he hit .267 with 15 home runs and seven steals in 83 games, including a very solid 14.5 percent walk rate and 16.5 percent strikeout rate. So, in 2014, Semien had a total of 21 home runs and 10 steals in just over 620 plate appearances between Charlotte and Chicago.
Set for expanded playing time in Oakland, Steamer projects Semien to slash .239/.316/.396 with 16 home runs, 65 runs, 62 RBI and nine swipes across 566 plate appearances.
Given that Semien was considered the centerpiece in the trade of Samardijza and Beane would not just give away his No. 2 starter (or so I think), I tend to believe the A's will give Semien every opportunity to play out a full year, or near full year, at shortstop. His versatility, along with super-utility man Ben Zobrist, should allow him to reach at least 450 plate appearances, and hopefully reach well over 500 as Steamer projects.
While Semien had a great eye in the minor leagues (238 walks and 322 strikeouts in 408 minor league games), he has thus far struggled at the major league level, albeit in a small sample size. At the big-league level, he owns a 6.7 percent walk rate and 28.2 percent strikeout rate, failing to demonstrate the same plate discipline that ascended him quickly through the minor-league ranks.
Interestingly, most of his struggle against major-league pitching has come against right-handers, where he owns just a 104 wRC+ (compared to a 77 wRC+ against southpaws). Last year's September call-up showed what Semien can do when everything is going right, as he hit .273/.333/.485 with a 129 wRC+.
ZiPS is equally optimistic about Semien's upcoming season, projecting the middle infielder to finish with a 15/15 season and over 60 runs and 60 RBI. That's sort of the in the mold of what his current teammate, Zobrist, was giving us a couple years back. At 24, Semien is still young enough to correct his plate discipline problems of his first two years in Chicago.
The beauty of owning a potential double-digit home run and steal Semien is that it won't take much to acquire. He's still a much better long-term play at this point, especially in dynasty leagues, but he looks like someone who can give you good, not great, numbers in four of five categories excluding batting average.
I believe a realistic outcome is a .250 BA, a 15/10 season and 120+ runs/RBI. Semien was ranked 25th at second base in the Fake Teams Consensus Rankings, appearing just before Aaron Hill and Arismendy Alcantara, with Ray liking him the most at No. 18. I see him having a real shot of finishing in the top 15 with an outside chance of top-12 production if the power takes a step forward (say, 17-20 home runs?). As a possible last-round pick in your fantasy draft, a full season of Semien can't be a bad thing.