Speaking Of Helium… Marcus Semien
After spending nearly every week of the 2013 season on Carson Cistulli’s “Fringe Five” list over at FanGraphs, White Sox prospect Marcus Semien made the hearts of stats guys everywhere flutter. Between Double-A and Triple-A, his .284/.401/.479 triple slash line was impressive. Add to it more walks than strikeouts, 19 home runs and 24/29 stolen base attempts and the White Sox had a player ready to supplant Conor Gillaspie or Gordon Beckham.
For his efforts, Semien received a September promotion and slashed .261/.268/.406 in 71 plate appearances. Additionally, he struck out more than once per game and walked just once (Note to prospect followers who love high walks rates — They often plummet).
Even if one tosses the small sample size of MLB plate appearances out the window, his walk rate dropped from 17.4% in Double-A to 9.9% in Triple-A. In 2013, Semien did most of his damage at an age appropriate level, but backslid against more mature competition.
Semien isn’t exactly the shiny new toy stats minded prospect writers are making him out to be, but Semien is a safe bet to become a solid regular, if not more.
My first look at Semien was in Kannapolis in 2011. The Intimidators were anything but Intimidating featuring a roster highlighted by Trayce Thompson and Jake Petricka. At shortstop, Semien was a fluid athlete with a spread set of tools. He didn’t excel in any one area, but the sum of Semien’s skill set allowed him to stand out at the level. That season, he posted a .253/.320/.376 triple slash line, causing me to leave his video on the cutting room floor.
A level bump in 2012 didn’t keep Semien from posting much stronger numbers. Behind a .273/.362/.471 triple slash line, the infielder began to gain supporters in the prospect community.
When a prospect is age appropriate for the level, it’s important for him to continue building on those numbers to profile well at the Major League level. Prospects who maintain are a decent investment too, but the gainers are where it’s at. Semien fits that category.
Overall, Semien is a solid player who I expect to post .275/.335/.400 seasons with 10-12 home runs and stolen bases — not a world beater, but solid contributor in deep leagues. Defensively, he should be above average at second or third. This led me to post him as a free agent in this new league I joined since he was unowned and had Major League experience.
In this format, you can post players as minor or Major League free agents depending on whether they’ll be assigned to the 40-man roster or not. In an effort to limit the bidding, I offered a Major League deal with a guaranteed spot on the 40-man roster.
The bids are made in points based on a complex formula. So without going into great detail, our initial bid was six points. Other teams hopped in and the high bid is currently 16. On a three year deal, this is about 10 million in guaranteed money for a guy who’ll begin the season in Triple-A. The owner will maintain control through arbitration just like MLB, but those salaries only increase. So, owning Semien for the full six years will be more than a 20-million dollar investment. Wow!
It’s kind of like what the Rays did with Matt Moore, only Moore was considered the best pitching prospect in baseball and flashed dominant stuff at the Major League level prior to signing his extension.
Obviously, a player like Semien will be much more valuable in deeper leagues, but this kind of inflation for a player with no MLB track record is tough to stomach. If I continue to bid, it will be because we have no legitimate backup to Jason Kipnis at second base, or Evan Longoria at third base — unless you consider Corban Joseph a possibility.
If Semien is a target of yours entering 2014, be prepared to pay peak value. It may not be worth it. And when the White Sox traded for Matt Davidson this off-season, it signaled Semien will have to overtake Gordon Beckham at second base, or be destined for utility duty.
Do you think Semien has what it takes to become the next Tony Phillips? Has there even been another guy worthy of being compared to Phillips since he retired in 1999?
4 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
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