Athletics

What's behind Marcus Semien's power surge? Analysts examine A's star

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USATSI

What's behind Marcus Semien's power surge? Analysts examine A's star

Marcus Semien has been something else this season.

Far different from the shortstop who previously struggled at the position and needed guidance from 10-year MLB infielder and former A's third base coach Ron Washington.

Now Semien finds himself quietly becoming one of the hottest hitters in baseball, but it's not going to be a muffled for long.

Entering play on Saturday, Semien is slashing .284/.365/.517 with 31 home runs and 88 RBI in 2019.

His improvement was spotlighted during a recent segment on MLB Network when Mark DeRosa and Bill Ripken gushed over how Semien's production has almost doubled in certain offensive categories.

Semien's 137 OPS+ is the tenth highest in the AL with his 7.4 WAR being the third highest in the league. 

So what's working for him?

"He's controlling the strike zone, he knows what he's about," DeRosa said. 

And Semien is being productive against a variety of pitchers at different fields as well. 

His strikeouts are down quite a bit, and his walk percentage has risen along with his chase percentage -- that means he's increased his plate discipline, a factor DeRosa mentioned in regard to the maturation process a player has as seasons go by:

His slugging percentage against pitches 95-mph or faster has risen steadily as he's gone from .350 during the 2015-18 seasons to .625 in 2019.

Ripken and DeRosa tried to notice something different, but they agreed his swing was pretty spot on when comparing this season to last back-to-back.

[RELATED: Semien deserves MVP consideration]

Perhaps it was mental -- the confidence certainly shows. Perhaps the bat that he switched is a bigger factor than we realize. 

But Ripken loves what he sees from a player who is playing every day.

A's top prospect ranking: Why Austin Beck comes in at No. 9 overall

A's top prospect ranking: Why Austin Beck comes in at No. 9 overall

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine the top 10 prospects in the A's organization. For each player, we will provide a scouting report and a realistic timetable for reaching the major leagues, as well as what he needs to do to stay there.

No. 9 - Austin Beck, OF

The A's remain very high on Beck, and why shouldn't they? Oakland drafted the outfielder No. 6 overall out of high school in 2017 and he has shown flashes of his potential already.

Beck is still just 20 years old and coming off a solid season at High-A Stockton. In 85 games, he slashed .251/.302/.411 with eight home runs, 22 doubles, and 49 RBI. The previous year, he posted an even better .296/.335/.383 slash line at Class-A Beloit as a 19-year-old.

"He's got the ability to make contact to all fields," A's assistant general manager/director of player personnel Billy Owens told NBC Sports California earlier this year. "He's got power that's going to come to prominence as he rises through the organization and gets to the higher levels."

Beck has also displayed terrific defensive ability, both in center and right field. MLB Pipeline rates him as a strong fielder and thrower of the baseball, with above-average speed as well.

Said Owens: "He definitely can defend center field, he's got a powerful throwing arm, he's got a swing that can manipulate the baseball and go to all fields, and the raw power is definitely in there. So he's got a chance to be a five-tool player."

Beck will likely spend the majority of the 2020 season at Double-A Midland. If he performs well there, he figures to get a shot at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2021 and could potentially make his major league debut late that year, or in 2022.

[RELATED: A's prospect rankings: No. 10 -- Nick Allen]

For the moment, the A's have a lot of depth in the outfield, but that could certainly change by the time Beck is ready for the big leagues. Mark Canha is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season, while Chad Pinder is already entering his arbitration years.

If Beck can continue to develop his power stroke, while simultaneously improving his all-around approach at the plate, his natural speed and athleticism should put him in position to become an impact player for the A's in the not too distant future.

A's top prospect ranking: Why Nick Allen comes in at No. 10 overall

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USATSI

A's top prospect ranking: Why Nick Allen comes in at No. 10 overall

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine the top 10 prospects in the A's organization. For each player, we will provide a scouting report and a realistic timetable for reaching the major leagues, as well as what he needs to do to stay there.

No. 10 - Nick Allen, SS/2B

The A's selected Allen out of high school in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft and he is beginning to develop into the shortstop they hoped he would be. At just 5-foot-9, the 21-year-old is far from imposing physically, but he is a defensive wizard.

Allen has tremendous range and a cannon for an arm, with MLB Pipeline assigning him a 65 fielding rating on the 20-80 scale and an arm grade of 60. There has never been any question about his defensive ability, which is already MLB quality. Now he's beginning to show improvement at the plate as well.

Allen struggled in 2018 at Class-A Beloit, slashing just .239/.301/.302 in 121 games. But this past season at High-A Stockton, that slash line shot up to .292/.363/.434, with improved power numbers across the board.

Allen also has above-average speed, with a 60 rating from MLB Pipeline. He stole 37 bases in 193 games over the past two seasons.

Allen can play shortstop and second base, both potential positions of need for the A's in the near future. Marcus Semien is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season and Jurickson Profar is far from a sure thing to return. Youngsters Jorge Mateo, Franklin Barreto, and Sheldon Neuse could also be options at the middle infield positions, but Allen has a great chance to earn a spot down the road.

Realistically, Allen doesn't figure to join the A's until at least 2021, with 2022 seeming more realistic. He just turned 21 earlier this month and has yet to play a single game above High-A.

Allen will likely start the 2020 season at Double-A Midland, with an opportunity to move up to Triple-A Las Vegas, based on his performance. If he continues to progress offensively, he could certainly earn a major league call-up at some point in 2021.

[RELATED: Why A's should move on from Grossman]

Allen has already added some strength, which has been reflected in his increased productivity at the plate. He will need to continue his work in the weight room, without losing his speed, which should be his biggest weapon offensively.

While Allen will never be a power-hitter, he can use his speed to wreak havoc on the basepaths. If he maintains his magical defensive prowess, he has an opportunity to develop into a solid major leaguer for Oakland.