White Sox Player Previews: Marcus Semien and Jeff Keppinger

White Sox Player Previews: Marcus Semien and Jeff Keppinger

The bullpen was a bit of guess work on my part, but the last few spots on the bench are even harder.  I'm pretty sure the White Sox are coming to Chicago with three first basemen, Abreu, Konerko and Dunn.  If they carry twelve pitchers like I think they will, that only leaves ten slots for the remainder of the twenty-five man roster.  Figure of those ten, eight are pretty locked up (Flowers, Phegley,  Beckham, Ramirez, Garcia, Viciedo, Eaton and Davidson.)  So that leaves two position spots open.  One has to go to a fourth outfielder the other to an infielder.  Which leaves us with only a few options from which to choose.

Last year, Jeff Keppinger was the "big" off-season move.  It was hoped that he would fill the third base hole and had enough versatility to play other positions.  This came in handy when Gordon Beckham went down with an injury and Keppinger was able to fill in at second base for some games.  The only problem was that Keppinger was still playing.  He did rally by the end of the season to get his batting average up to .253, but his OBP was an astonishingly bad .283, a drop of almost 100 points from 2012.  At one point during the season, he was ranked the worst batter in the major leagues according to weighted batting average.

In the field, Keppinger was even worse.  According to advanced statistics, he had a negative runs saved numbers for every position he played, except first base.  Given time, I bet he could have been equally bad at first base too.  You name the stat, however, and Keppinger was bad in it, range factor, fielding percentage (especially 3B), UZR, Keppinger was more of a liability than a anything else.

So it isn't that surprising that when September rolled around, Keppinger got a chance to take a seat.  He only played in eleven games that month.  He was listed day to day in August and late in September, but with the late season call ups, Keppinger was easily replaced.

One of the replacements was Marcus Semien.  In the twenty-one games he played at the major league level, he did ok, .261/.268/.406.  Looking back to his minor league statistics, he does a much better job getting on base than his .268 OBP in September suggests.  Before the call-up between AA and AAA he had a .402 OBP in 137 games.  I don't expect that same kind of number in the big leagues, but I think it is safe to assume that something between .268 and .402 is plausible.

Semien also did decently in the field and can play multiple positions, just like Keppinger, except better, younger and cheaper.  Of course there is the problem, at least as far as Semien is concerned.  The White Sox are on the hook for too much money toward Keppinger to let him go or send him to the minors.  The White Sox have also tried to fill the void at third base with Mark Davidson.  Between those two, my guess is Semien is the odd man out.  I would imagine that he might be trade bait with his strong minor league stats and youth, which is unfortunate.  I'd much rather see Semien get a shot along with Davidson than watch another year of Jeff Keppinger.  Somehow I don't see the Sox eating that contract to continue the youth movement.


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