Marcus Semien: 2015 Breakout Candidate

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The Oakland Athletics have made a plethora of moves this offseason, and one of the key returns has been utility infielder Marcus Semien included in the return for Jeff Samardzija. Semien has played in just over half of a season in the big leagues, split over two years, which makes him a prime candidate for a breakout season in his first season as a starter.

According to the Steamer on FanGraphs, Semien’s projected 2015 season will look something like this: .239 batting average, 16 home runs, 61 rbi, 9 stolen bases, and an on-base percentage of .317. These projections are over the course of 138 games, and 571 plate appearances.

In essence, these projections are right between Jed Lowrie‘s fantastic 2013 campaign (15 homers, 75 rbi, .344 OBP) and his disappointing 2014 season (6 homers, 50 rbi, .321 OBP) with Lowrie’s batting averages being higher in both cases.

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In this piece by Carson Cistulli, he gives the lowdown on Semien and his projections, stating that his projected 1.9 WAR, and 105 WRC+ are “almost precisely league average,” which is pretty darn good for a player in his age 24 season.

Their projection also includes a BABIP (batting average on ball in play) of .271. We’ll come back to that.

In 2014, Semien saw his ground ball to fly ball rate go up from 0.57 in 2013 to 1.03. With his speed being greater than Lowrie’s by a longshot, Semien may be able to beat out some ground balls, or at the very least put pressure on the defense to make a play. This is where his BABIP comes into play. If he can beat out some of those slow grounders, or get lucky with some poor defense by the opposition, his batting average could be a nudge higher than the .239 projection.

Semien is also working with Darren Bush, who has received credit for helping Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss with their approaches at the plate. He may not generate a higher batting average, but he may be able to squeeze a few extra home runs out of the Athletics’ new shortstop.

Right now, everything is a guessing game. Am I an A’s fan? Yes. Is my objectivity in doubt in this instance? Definitely. I think that Marcus Semien will be a great asset to the Oakland Athletics in 2015 and beyond. The kid has some pop, and has to have better range than Lowrie, right?

Do I think that he will be a superstar? Not at all, but I do think that he will be a solid addition to the team and be a big contributor wherever Bob Melvin winds up placing him in the lineup. While he may not be a breakout candidate in terms of an All-Star appearance, I’m certain that even the most casual fan of the green and gold will know his name by season’s end.

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