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The Chicago White Sox have been hit hard by injuries as Avisail Garcia is out for the year while Chris Sale, Gordon Beckham, Felipe Paulino, and Nate Jones are all on the disabled list. Add to that Adam Eaton’s and Conor Gillaspie’s nagging injuries and you have a handful of guys getting opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t.
Enter Marcus Semien, a 23-year-old rookie who unexpectedly made the team out of spring training as a starter after injuries ran through the White Sox infield. It didn’t hurt that he was batting .333 with a home run, five doubles, seven RBI, 10 runs, and as many walks as strikeouts.
Now an everyday starter, Semien is batting just .234 through 21 games but has contributed three home runs, eight extra-base hits, 13 RBI, 13 runs, and two steals as a utility man. Not only does Semien offer 20-20 potential but he is eligible at both second and third base, two significantly shallow positions.
Semien’s three home runs is tied for second among the league’s second basemen and tied for fourth among the league’s third basemen. Last season, just three second basemen hit 20 home runs and only four stole 20 bases. Just nine third basemen hit 20 home runs in 2013, and only David Wright stole more than nine bases.
As you can see, the potential for 20 home runs or 20 steals alone is valuable at either position but Semien offers a combination of both.
What about the low batting average? Semien owns a .274 career average in the minors and a .245 average through 42 Major League games. He’s not likely to keep batting .230 but he’s never going to be a .300 hitter either.
When you compare him to the other players at those two positions, however, you can do a lot worse than a .250 average. Last season, only nine qualifying third basemen batted over .270 and just 10 second basemen. If he can get his batting average to around .250-.260, he’d essentially be par for the course.
Even if he only bats .240, Semien still provides a strong option at either position. He has quickly ascended through the White Sox farm system, hitting 14 home runs and stealing 11 bases in 2012 and adding 19 home runs and 24 steals in 2013.
His current production puts him on pace for a similar 23 home runs, 15-16 steals, 100 RBI, and 100 runs. While he’s not likely to continue his RBI and run production at that rate, there’s no reason we can’t expect a Jason Kipnis-like 75 RBI if he stays healthy. Not to mention that he’s likely to steal more than 15 bases to make up for it.
If he continues to produce like he has, he should put up numbers similar to his double-play mate Alexei Ramirez’s early seasons. A mediocre batting coupled with 15-18+ home runs, close to 20 steals, and 70 or so RBI – more than enough value for a starting second or third baseman.
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