The A’s made a commitment to Marcus Semien as their shortstop for this season from the moment they acquired him last December.
Are they convinced he’s the right man for the position moving forward? That’s an important key as they make their evaluations with an eye toward planning for 2016.
The stats, specifically Semien’s error total, demonstrate just how rocky the times were for him defensively for much of this season. His 34 errors lead all major league defenders and have tied the Oakland record for most errors by a player in one season, regardless of position.
But it’s really been a tale of two halves for the East Bay native. Just six of those errors have come in the 51 games since the All-Star break. In watching Semien on a regular basis, it’s clear he’s handling shortstop with more confidence and fluidity over the second half. His athleticism has been on display on some highlight-worthy plays recently, including a terrific stop in the hole against the White Sox on Wednesday, when the A’s nearly pulled off a dazzling double play.
That development isn’t lost on A’s general manager Billy Beane, who credits Semien for the durability he’s shown and the hours he’s put in working with recently installed infield coach Ron Washington. Since Washington first signed on with the A’s as a part-time coach in May, the two have kept a daily routine of hitting the field four hours or so before first pitch, working on defensive fundamentals.
“He’s certainly made progress, I think in the second half in particular,” Beane said. “I know Wash has had a big impact on him since he arrived. He’s been very good in the second half.”
Yet Beane stopped short of committing to Semien as the everyday shortstop next season. And interestingly, the GM raised the point that Semien could fit in at other positions, including the outfield.
Shortstop has developed into one of the deepest positions in the A’s farm system, though their top prospects at the position all figure to be at least two seasons away from the majors. Franklin Barreto, considered Oakland’s No. 1 overall prospect, just completed his first season at high Single-A Stockton. Chad Pinder and Yairo Munoz turned heads this season at Double-A and Single-A, respectively. The A’s also used their top two picks in this year’s draft on college shortstops in Richie Martin and Mikey White, and Martin in particular is believed to have terrific upside.
“Right now, we’re committed to (Semien) for this year, and like I said, we like his progress and hopefully he continues it,” Beane said. “The game is a game of competition. I don’t see any immediate competition right now, but at some point, that will arrive on the scene.
“The thing with Marcus is he’s got the ability to play any position. He can play second, third, short, the outfield. He’s always got that in his back pocket. We do have some guys coming, but they’re not nearly ready.”
That would suggest that Semien will enter next season as the starter unless the A’s look to acquire a shortstop this offseason. Beane dodged the question of whether he might do that, saying it was too early to make those decisions. But he reiterated he won’t be looking to trade away quality prospects for immediate help.
Semien, who’s hitting .253 with 12 homers, 39 RBI and 11 stolen bases, was asked if he feels his play this season has proven he’s the right man for shortstop next season.
“That’s always what I’m working toward,” he said during the last homestand. “I just want to play to the best of my ability, work hard for that job and work hard to help our team win. They’ve given me the opportunity this year, so of course” he wants to be the guy next year.
Thursday’s 4-2 victory over the White Sox, Semien’s former club, marked his 142nd game played this season, which leads the A’s. Being in the lineup every day means a lot to Semien. And during the four-game series against Chicago, he got a chance to reunite with Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who played in at least 156 games every year from 2010-14. Semien learned a lot from Ramirez about how to prepare for the daily grind of a long season.
“I work hard in the weight room every day to stay healthy to be out there,” Semien said. “I’ve learned that from guys, guys who really took pride in working out and staying healthy. Games played means a lot to me. It means I’m out there helping the team win.”