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Fantasy Baseball Prospects: White Sox Starting Rookie Marcus Semien

With Gordon Beckham sidelined, Michael Clifford looks at White Sox rookie Marcus Semien’s fantasy baseball potential as the starting second baseman.

Marcus Semien
Marcus Semien

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

While injuries are a part of any fantasy season and any fantasy sport, I don’t quite remember a preseason like the one Major League Baseball is enduring this year. The list of players starting the season on the disabled list seems to be growing exponentially on a daily basis. It’s not quite that dramatic, but anyone that drafted Jurickson Profar or Aroldis Chapman two weeks ago will tell you it seems like the injury baseball gods are out to get them.

Injuries have cropped up for both of Chicago’s teams as they have everywhere else. For the White Sox in particular, the projected starting second baseman was going to be Gordon Beckham. The White Sox placed Beckham on the disabled list this week though, stating an oblique injury as the cause. I’m not a doctor, I only play one on Twitter, but oblique injuries typically mean at least a month on the shelf. Brett Lawrie suffered an oblique strain in early March of 2013 and missed the first three weeks of the season. Evan Longoria missed a month at the start of the 2011 season and hit .244 that year. Thinking that Gordon Beckham will be back off the DL when he’s eligible (about a week) and that he will be healthy at the time seems unlikely.

This means two things for the White Sox: 1) Leury Garcia will be making the team, 2) Marcus Semien will be the Opening day second baseman. It’s that second name that fantasy owners will want to know.

Background and Minor Leagues

Marcus Semien was a sixth round pick in 2011 for the White Sox coming out of Cal-Berkeley after not signing with Chicago in 2008 when he was drafted out of high school. The right-handed hitting second baseman spent the second half of 2011 in A-ball, putting up a slash line of .253/.320/.376 with a .122 ISO in 262 plate appearances. Nothing overly impressive.

Semien’s next two years in the minors were a completely different story from the pedestrian numbers he showed in A-ball.

He spent the 2012 season in High-A produced significantly better numbers than he did in 2011:

.273/.362/.471; 14 HR; 11 SB; 1.76 K:BB rate; .199 ISO

Any time a player can manage even a 2.5:1 strikeout to walk ratio, it’s a good sign about patience at the plate. Semien went far above that and displayed pretty good power with 31 doubles, five triples, and 14 home runs. He had 64 singles that year and 50 extra base hits. Pretty impressive.

Last year was even better for the young infielder (these are aggregates of 483 plate appearances in Double-A and 142 plate appearances at Triple-A):

.284/.401/.479; 19 HR; 24 SB; 0.92 K:BB rate; .195 ISO

Not only did Siemen duplicate his stellar 2012 campaign in some areas, he improved on it in others. When looking at his K:BB rate, he improved by a lot. A player with a discerning eye like this is a great sign for potential at the next level. There are different reasons why, but mainly, there is a strong correlation between on base percentage and future runs scored.

Semien was called up in September last year but struggled in a very small sample. In just 69 at bats in that month, Semien struck out 22 times while walking just once, posting a .268 OBP. He raked in Spring Training though, with nine walks to ten strikeouts and an OBP of .422 in 54 at bats.

Fantasy Outlook

Now that we know Beckham is starting on the disabled list, Semien will have the opportunity to impress the coaches early on. It’s tough to say if he will stay; it’s not often that rookies are allowed to hit through struggles. There’s no certainty that he’ll even hit out of the gate like he has in the spring as well.

That said, it’s not like Beckham is irreplaceable. Semien isn’t exactly replacing a Dustin Pedroia-type player. Beckham has an OPS under .700 each of the last four seasons and he’s not Darwin Barney with his glove. If the young Semien were to live up to what he’s shown he can do in the past, it doesn’t seem guaranteed Beckham will get his job back. Semien is a prospect known to have good fielding and a good arm, so there aren’t defensive concerns. It seems like the difference will be whoever performs better at the plate, and Semien already has a head start.

His current ADP sits as the 31st shortstop off the board (that dual eligibility is a nice thought) but it will undoubtedly rise. His ability to take a walk and good speed has brought him to the top of the White Sox lineup in their last couple of Spring Training games and that’s only a bonus.

I don’t normally target prospects but Semien as good a bet as any once pick number 300 or so rolls around. That territory is Zack Cozart, Dee Gordon, and Yunel Escobar. The dual eligibility of 2B and SS would be very nice to have as well.

Shortstop is only so deep offensively. Once Erick Aybar goes off the board, there’s not one guy I personally look at and think “I have to have him.” Taking a flier on him late on the bench of 12-team leagues is not a bad idea: If he hits, it’s a good late value. If he misses, the players that would be his replacements will probably still be on the waiver wire. Semien has a good eye at the plate with two good minor league seasons to back him up, has solid power/speed potential, will have dual eligibility at the middle infield positions, and is being given the opportunity out of the gate to prove himself. As far as “potential late value” picks go, he’s checking all the right boxes.

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