Marcus Semien is about to cash in after betting on himself in 2021. He signed a one-year deal with Toronto in January and is now a free agent again after bashing 45 home runs, the most in AL/NL history from a primary second baseman. Following six seasons as a shortstop-only player, Semien displayed his versatility with that position switch, which might help him stand out amid a marquee class of free-agent shortstops.
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Here’s what you need to know about Semien:
Birthdate: Sept. 17, 1990 (Age 31 in 2022)
Primary positions: SS/2B
Height/weight: 6-foot, 195 lbs.
Place of birth: San Francisco
School(s): St. Mary's (Calif.) HS; University of California
Drafted: Sixth round, 2011, by White Sox
MLB debut: Sept. 4, 2013
Qualifying offer: Received one; declined
STAT TO KNOW
With 8.4 Baseball-Reference WAR in 2019 and 7.1 in 2021, Semien is the only player in the Majors to produce at least 6.0 bWAR in multiple seasons since the beginning of 2019.
Is this repeatable? In his age-30 season, Semien cleared his previous career high in homers by 12, and his expected slugging percentage (.444) -- based on his quality of contact and strikeouts -- was nearly 100 points lower than his actual mark.
He comes to play literally every day
Semien has played in every game in each of the past two 162-game regular seasons. Whit Merrifield, who hasn’t missed a game since 2018, is the only other player who suited up for a full 162 in 2019 and 2021. Semien also is the only player to play in at least 159 regular-season games each year since 2018. Since the beginning of that season, he has appeared in 536 of a possible 546 games; only Merrifield, Freddie Freeman and Carlos Santana have played in more games during that span.
He saved his best for last
Semien was selected to the All-Star Game for the first time in 2021. Then he became a September standout when he crushed 12 homers in the final month, the most big flies in any month of his career. That's one reason why Semien started hearing "M-V-P" chants down the stretch. He should receive plenty of votes for that award after a third-place finish in 2019.
He is much more than a power hitter
Semien's homer count shouldn't drown out what a complete player he was in 2021. His seven Outs Above Average as a second baseman, per Statcast, ranked sixth at the position, a significant accomplishment for a player whose defense was often criticized early in his career. According to FanGraphs, Semien's baserunning was 4.0 runs above average, which was 24th best in MLB. And Semien's impact away from the field was evident through the words of his teammates.
Following the final game of the season, Blue Jays star shortstop Bo Bichette was asked what he has learned from Semien.
"Everything," Bichette said while trying to hold back tears. "Yeah, he's meant a lot to me."
He had a very difficult 2020
Semien put up one of the worst stat lines of his career during the shortened 2020 season. He hit just seven home runs and compiled a 0.3 bWAR in 53 games for the Oakland A's. It was a hard year for everyone in and out of baseball, but it was especially tough for Semien.
As he told The Athletic this past June (subscription required), his wife suffered a miscarriage during the 2019-20 offseason; the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to train at home instead of the Oakland Coliseum, which sapped his strength; Semien's role as the team's union representative put many extra responsibilities on his plate; he dealt with an intercostal strain for about half of the two-month season.
But with health on his side in 2021 -- and after celebrating the birth of his third son a few weeks before signing with the Blue Jays -- Semien reached new heights north of the border.
He preyed on fastballs
Maybe pitchers will throw more soft stuff Semien's way next year? It seems like a good idea since Semien was one of the league's most productive hitters on heaters this season. He registered 119 hits off of fastballs (third most in MLB) and posted a .620 slugging percentage (17th best). On the other hand, Semien slugged .405 against offspeed pitches and .407 against breaking balls.