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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Tough decisions ahead for White Sox

By Doug Padilla

Marcus Semien
Marcus Semien has been a bright spot in the Sox offense, including his grand slam against Detroit.


CHICAGO -- They call them good problems to have, but there will be no easy decisions when it comes to the Chicago White Sox's suddenly crowded landscape at second base.

Gordon Beckham is back from the disabled list and is set to take back his second-base job, but Marcus Semien has performed well there and has been one of the bright spots in the team’s new-look offense.

The facts are this: With a $4.175 million contract for this season, Beckham is going to have to play. But as Semien shows he can handle the challenges that come with a big league roster spot, he needs to be on the field as well.


In the early going, Semien is 16th in the American League at 4.27 pitches per plate appearance, key to wearing down a starting pitcher and making him potentially vulnerable in the middle innings. Adam Dunn is third in the AL in that department at 4.47.

What’s the advantage of turning things over to a fresh bullpen? Semien was the prime example of that Wednesday at Detroit. Tigers starter Drew Smyly was removed after six innings and 92 pitches, with reliever Evan Reed taking over in an attempt to protect a two-run lead.

That all went awry for the Tigers when Semien delivered a seventh-inning grand slam off reliever Ian Krol that put the White Sox up for good in the eventual 6-4 victory.

Semien certainly has shown that he can handle himself in a major league lineup and that he should get more playing time, but it isn’t always that simple.

The White Sox could use a productive Beckham as well, not only to get production for their investment (his 2014 salary is sixth highest on the club), but to also use him as a potential asset for any trades that could come along down the road.

The White Sox are flush with second-base prospects, with Semien merely being at the head of that pack. Leury Garcia has the ability to play there, as does Carlos Sanchez at Triple-A and Micah Johnson, who is proving to be one of the top prospects in the entire organization with his production, at Double-A.

Beckham has one more year of arbitration eligibility, but the White Sox are obviously in position to go a different route. If Beckham is productive over the next three months, he would become a valuable trade asset by the July 31 deadline for non-waiver deals.

The White Sox could possibly get Semien at-bats by rotating him in at third base and second base. He could even give Alexei Ramirez a day off here and there at shortstop. In Thursday's lineup, Beckham was the starting second baseman, while Semien got the call at third as Conor Gillaspie continues to deal with a sore hand.

The likely scenario, though, is that come Sunday, when the White Sox need somebody to start in Chris Sale’s rotation spot again, Semien could be headed off to Triple-A Charlotte so that he keeps on seeing pitches on a regular basis and his development doesn’t stall.

The cruel part is that Semien is hot right now after a slow start. He has a .290 batting average over the past week with eight RBIs. But he isn’t a finished product either as his .234 batting average and .280 on-base percentage would show.

And then there is the issue of his team-leading 28 strikeouts, tops on a club that has guys like Tyler Flowers and Dunn on the roster. For the positives Semien brings to the top of the order, his struggle to make contact is not one of them.

So if the White Sox decide to send down Semien, it certainly won’t be an easy decision. But sending a guy down who deserves to be on the roster is a good sign, especially when a team is in the midst of a roster reshuffle.