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Can Marcus Semien Solve the Oakland A’s Shortstop Problem?

Marcus Semien #10 of the Oakland Athletics charges in to make a play on a ground ball during the third inning against the Chicago Cubs in a preseason Cactus League game. (Mandatory Credit: ESPN/Getty Images)

Have the Oakland A’s found a long-term shortstop in Bay Area native Marcus Semien?

Jed Lowrie was the starting shortstop for the Oakland A’s in 2013 and 2014, but he wasn’t the shortstop for the A’s. His .249 BA, .321 OBP, and .355 SLG last season were below his career averages, but even in his better years he’s never been a power hitter and has remained a thoroughly average, everyday shortstop, a mostly hollow position since Miguel Tejada left the A’s in 2003.

Last year, the A’s had shortstop Addison Russell, a top-five prospect drafted out of high school with a quick bat, but Billy Beane traded his, most likely very valuable, future with the A’s for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in the A’s attempt to build the most talented rotation of 2014. But after seven stolen bases and a back-and-forth battle that stretched out to the twelfth inning, the A’s playoff hopes were dashed as they fell 8-9 to Kansas City in the wild card elimination game. Shortly after, Samardzija was traded to the White Sox.

In exchange for Samardzija, the A’s received pitcher Chris Bassitt, first baseman Rangel Ravelo, catcher Josh Phegley, and Marcus Semien, a shortstop. Known for his plate patience, Semien at one point led the AA Southern League in the minors with a .420 OBP, 84 walks, and only 66 strikeouts. “I’ve been walking a lot, getting on base a lot. A lot of it is just battling with two strikes, being patient, getting your pitch to hit. If you get deep in the count sometimes you get two strikes and you’re making that pitcher work, he’s more vulnerable to make a mistake and that’s a better pitch to hit for you,” Semien said about his admirable plate discipline. Semien also caught the A’s eye with his unexpected power. “We saw it from Day 1 — he’s got some power,” A’s manager Bob Melvin says. “Watching him move around, you might not think he has the type of power that he does. His position doesn’t usually come with a guy that has the potential to hit 20 home runs, which he has the ability to do.

On top of the number of assets he brings to Oakland—including speed—Semien is a Bay Area native. He began playing baseball at six years old in El Cerrito, California, and played for UC Berkeley at a time when the baseball program was threatened with budget cuts. Cal’s baseball team made it to the College World Series and eventually raised enough money to save the program, and that same year the Chicago White Sox picked up Semien in the draft.

At 24, Semien is still a few years out from his peak, he’s impressed the organization with his professionalism and maturity, and he’s a quietly productive player that typifies the Billy Beane philosophy and, consequently, much of the A’s roster. Now that Semien has returned to his hometown, the discussion of a long-term stay with the A’s is brewing, and have many fans hoping that they’ve finally found the shortstop for the Oakland A’s.

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