A multi-part Around the Horn series, which features a position-by-position look at Oakland's projected starters and backup options heading into the season, turns its focus to shortstop after covering second base and first base.
Marcus Semien is set to return as the everyday shortstop despite enduring a series of growing pains, particularly on the defensive end, in his first full big league season at the position. The A's expect to see continued improvement from Semien on both sides of the ball this year, having continually expressed a heap of faith in his skillset.
Semien's bat was often overlooked because of his error total, but he quietly compiled 15 home runs while batting .257 with 45 RBIs in a team-leading 155 games, and his .715 OPS ranked third among American League shortstop qualifiers. His offensive game resembled a wave, as he started the season hitting .314 over his first 40 games before enduring a 63-game stretch that saw him hit just .195. He rebounded, though, and hit .283 with seven of his home runs over his final 52 games, reaching base safely in 23 consecutive games to finish the season.
Semien's 35 errors were most among any player and most by any position player in Oakland history, but only seven of them came in 63 games after the All-Star break, reflecting steady improvement under the watchful eye of infield coach Ron Washington, who worked with Semien daily upon joining the coaching staff in May. Semien's glove work appeared smoother, his throws to first base more confident, and his steadfast practice at the position has greatly impressed the A's, who strongly believe in his abilities as an everyday shortstop for years to come. Still, they've left open the possibility of a move to second base down the road.
The A's have Eric Sogard on hand as the primary middle-infield backup, and Jed Lowrie, who will begin the season at second base, also has vast experience at the position. Infielder Tyler Ladendorf, considered a strong defender, also remains on the 40-man roster, but he's primed to start the year with Triple-A Nashville until an injury or other unforeseen event signals a callup.
Down in the Minors, keep an eye on Franklin Barreto, ranked as Oakland's No. 1 prospect by MLB.com. He is one of the key pieces that arrived from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. Still just 19 years old, Barreto could make the move to Double-A Midland next season. Not to be forgotten is Chad Pinder, who has been invited to big league camp as a non-roster addition. Pinder, the 2015 Player of the Year in the Double-A Texas League, has spent the majority of his professional career at shortstop, but he could also become an option at second or third base.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.