The Chicago White Sox have a problem that they are happy to have: they possess a whole plethora of infield options in the minors.
So naturally, the team inserted a piece of this surplus into the outfield, in hopes that he could be a long-term solution to what seems to be an endless problem. When superstar Jose Abreu was reinstated from the DL last week, the White Sox sent down versatile infielder Marcus Semien. The 23-year-old Semien was seeing a decrease in the number of at-bats after third baseman Conor Gillaspie returned from an injury and continued to be a force in the No. 3 spot.
So far in 2014, Semien is hitting a measly .218 with three HRs and 18 RBIs with an OBP of .287. While initial praise surrounded his approach at the plate, that recognition began to subside when a number of his at-bats resulted in strikeouts. Still, Semien showed the organization why he should be in their future plans.
While playing at third, second, and shortstop throughout 43 games this year, Semien displayed a knack for flashing the leather. He spent most of his time at third (24 game) and second (17). With the consistent bat and steady glove of Gillaspie at the hot corner and Gordon Beckham showing promise in his fifth attempt of trying to live up to his first-round status, Semien found himself without regular playing time, which led to his demotion. While his trip back to Charlotte is not surprising, it is the position that he is playing down there that raises some eyebrows.
Let’s peer into the White Sox crystal ball and gander at the team’s future plans in regards to their infield.
At third base, the Sox are hoping that Gillaspie’s All-Star first half is not a fluke. If Gillaspie could be a dependable, left-handed, top of the order offense force for the long term, than the Sox would have solved a problem that they have had since Joe Crede‘s back decided to prematurely give out. If Gillaspie does come back to earth, the struggling Matt Davidson will be allowed to go through some growing pains at the position.
Switching over to short, there are a number of rumors that have the Sox shopping soon-to-be All-Star Alexei Ramirez. Even if the Sox do not shop Ramirez, who is under team control for two years after this season, he most likely will not return after 2016. His heir apparent is Carlos Sanchez, who has been tearing up triple-A pitching and is a Gold Glove-caliber defender.
Beckham will be given every chance imaginable to succeed at second base. If for some reason he falters or the team decides to trade him, speedster Micah Johnson will most likely be given the first chance at the starting job. This leaves Semien without any position to play in the infield. GM Rick Hahn does not want to give up on an emerging, promising talent; therefore, he is getting creative while looking for a long-term home for the youngster.
Back down on the farm, Semien has taken up a new position: left field. His ability to cover ground and his above-average arm intrigued coaches enough that they have thrown him out there. With Dayan Viciedo‘s future home being in right field, and Alejandro De Aza‘s being somewhere other than the South Side of Chicago, Semien is being groomed to take over the position.
The plan, however, is not to limit Semien to just left field. Hahn and the organization hopes to make him into their very own Ben Zobrist.
Zobrist, the super-utility man of the Tampa Bay Rays, was in the same situation as Semien. A natural shortstop, Zobrist was taught how to play the outfield along with his infield duties in 2008. Since then, Zobrist has been to two All-Star games and played a large part in the Rays making the World Series in 2008. He continues to sustain a role with the Rays despite his occasional struggles at the plate, due to his ability to play a variety of positions.
Semien’s move to left field is another sign that the new front office regime will continue to try creative ways to keep their most talented players in their future plans. If all goes well, the Sox might have found a long-term solution in the most unlikely place.