Perhaps no aspect of the A's season so far has been as aggravating, as intriguing, as polarizing, or as spotlighted, as Marcus Semien's journey at shortstop. Can Ron Washington perform more magic or is he trying to draw blood from a stone?
The Eyeball Scout feasts on the smallest of samples and does so without apology, simply asking readers to please completely disregard everything he says.
Whatever impact Washington will make, you can only expect to see a glimpse of it after 3 days. However, I have noticed some changes rather quickly. The main one is that since Wash arrived and first worked with Semien, it looks to me as if Semien is fielding balls with "soft hands". It's noticeable to me, as well as surprising, how different this looks already. If anything encourages me about Semien going forward, it's not just his ability to change something this fast and this dramatically, but also Washington's ability to produce that change so fast and so dramatically.
Semien's throws have had about the same overall accuracy, though I would expect that improvement in his fielding technique should help his throws. Overall, Semien's arm concerns me the least anyway because the arm strength is there and when he does not have time to think he throws well, leading me to believe that much of Semien's throwing issues are mental.
Then there's today's error, in which Semien charged a ball on which he should have laid back and missed the ball entirely. Again this does not alarm me, as it can improve quickly with proper tutoring. You can be sure Semien and Wash will dissect that play fully and that next time you will see a better decision that leads to at least one out.
Ah, here's the rub. Semien's lateral range, and his ability to range to his left and get down for a ground ball, have not been much tested in the last 3 days and they are my biggest concerns for Semien's shortstop defense going forward. Until I see improvement in these areas I am going to be reluctant to say I think he is a true shortstop beyond the "pasta" level of Jed Lowrie. And "Jed Lowrie with more mistakes" is not a good shortstop.
So while it's exciting to see Semien receive balls so much more smoothly and while it's interesting to ponder that he may develop more consistent throwing accuracy and decision making, I need to see improvement on balls hit sharply to Semien's left, balls low to the ground he has to range to pick up, balls a lot of shortstops get to but some don't, before I can get too hopeful.
Ultimately, we just won't know by the end of May what leaps Semien, under Wash's wing, can or cannot take towards becoming a competent big league shortstop. By the end of June, though? I think we'll have a pretty good idea.