No prospect in the White Sox system is hotter right now than infielder Marcus Semien. At age 22 in AA he is on the younger side, but you wouldn’t know it looking at what he’s done in July: .372/.524/.745, 29 BB, 12 K and 6 stolen bases for good measure. He’s played all three skill infield positions for the Birmingham Barons this season, but he’s a middle infielder primarily, and has mostly played shortstop on his way up through the system. On the season he leads not just his team but the entire Southern League in OPS (.903) and OBP (.420), and he’s the only player on a White Sox full season affiliate with more walks than strikeouts.
His hot run earned him a promotion to AAA Charlotte that was announced just a couple hours after the interview got posted. He will share middle infield duties with fellow prospect Carlos Sanchez.
I got to talk with Marcus recently, about his hitting approach, defense and his development as a player. Here are some of the highlights…
FutureSox (FS): You’ve been playing all three skill infield positions this season, though mostly at shortstop and second base. At which position are you most comfortable, and feel your skills could best translate to MLB?
Marcus Semien (MS): I prefer shortstop, I’ve been playing there my whole life. That’s where you usually get the most balls hit to you, lots of right-handed hitters rolling over pitches. I’m starting to like playing third a lot too, and second base is good, but shortstop is still the position I like to play most.
FS: There aren’t many prospects in the system with more walks than strikeouts. Is there an aspect of your hitting approach that you credit for giving you that discipline?
MS: It’s just getting your pitch to hit. I’ve been working a lot on the count this year. If you happen to get two strikes on you, make the pitcher work hard, and maybe they make a mistake. Try to swing at the right breaking balls. Swinging at strikes is the focus. It’s been working out so far, I know the numbers, but my goal is to get on base and score runs, to help the team win.
FS: Are there any specific coaches in the organization you’ve been working with closely, that have been particularly helpful in your development?
MS: Yeah, Gary Ward [AA hitting coach]. He played 13 years in big leagues, and he has lots of knowledge. He played a lot in minors too, so he knows how to get to the majors and stay there. Everything he says, I take it all in. On defensive the side, Ever Magallanes [Roving Defensive Coordinator] here, and Joe McEwing [current White Sox 3B coach] in spring training helped a lot.
FS: Any players or coaches from the MLB club you’ve met that made an impression?
MS: I talked to some of the guys. Angel Sanchez [currently in AAA Charlotte], we worked together a lot early in spring training. Steve Tolleson [also in AAA] too. They both have some big league time, a lot of knowledge to share with me. Watching Alexei [Ramirez] in the games, I only got to play with him once. Just taking everything I could from watching his games, to see why he is in the bigs and how he is able to stay.
FS: Is there a particular aspect of your game you are focusing on improving right now?
MS: I’m never satisfied with any part of my game. Baseball is a really hard game, you always have to try to get better on everything. Defensively, I’d like to continue developing, and make the routine plays every single time. It is good for your pitchers, pitchers love a defense that makes the plays for them. Offensively, trying to continue developing the approach at the plate, and hit every ball hard.
FS: If you weren’t playing baseball professionally, what would you be doing right now?
MS: I would still want to be in sports, maybe basketball. I played a little in high school.
FS: Just for fun now… of all the players you’ve been in clubhouses with in your time in the Sox organization, who is the funniest guy? Or best guy to be around?
MS: I like Kevin Vance [AA Birmingham reliever], he’s hilarious. Keeps the clubhouse loose, anything that comes out of his mouth makes everyone laugh. He’s just a great teammate too.
FS: Is there another player in the organization right now that you feel we should pay attention to, who maybe hasn’t gotten a lot of press yet? Who you’ve played with?
MS: There are a lot of those guys, under the radar guys this year. Dan Black [Birmingham 1B] is one. I’ve played with him the last three years. Puts up great numbers, and has a great approach at the plate. When I get on base, he always seems to be the guy driving me in. Another guy is Brady Shoemaker [OF, last played in Birmingham in 2012], who is injured this year. But he can flat out hit, one of most impressive hitters I’ve ever played with.
FS: Last question… if you had an open microphone, and could tell White Sox fans out there anything, what would you want them to know about you?
MS: One thing about me is, I respect everybody I meet. I’m kind of soft-spoken, but once I meet someone, I’m willing to have a conversation with anyone if they have questions.
Thanks to Marcus for taking the time to talk with FutureSox! You can read more about him on his profile page.