Jordan Danks has a low ceiling and has played well under it all year. His umpteenth trip back to Charlotte is not some measure of rotten luck or callous management. Yet it's a rough statement on his future with the team when they react to the possibility of offering him regular playing time by giving a shot to Moises Sierra.
Sierra — who survived the roster crunch when Conor Gillaspie was activated from the disabled list Wednesday while Danks was sent down — is a tweener corner outfield prospect mired in a slump of breathtaking awfulness when he became available. Sierra was 2-for-34 with a walk and nine strikeouts, and giving away at-bats like he was trying to deduct them from his taxes. As much as it seems folly for the Sox to try to turn such a player around on the spot, they figured he offered a better chance of making good on his chance than Danks, and they were probably right.
Sierra may be too thick for centerfield, and too unremarkable in power production and patience to justify his contact problems, but the 25-year-old has at least been a prospect with some hope attached to him. John Sickels wrote this about him after his brief stint in the majors in 2012.
Sierra reminds me more of Jose Guillen, not a star by any means but a guy who had some productive seasons with the bat in his late 20s and early 30s.
That's on the more optimistic end of the discussion, but Kevin Goldstein concurred shortly before his promotion that Sierra's combination of solid but unremarkable tools should stabilize into a future major league contributor.
We don't have anything resembling such optimism at this point. Sierra doesn't pick up armside pitching very well and only has league-average power to punish the mistakes he runs into. That's a short-term concern, where until the roster reels, shakes and lurches into a new form again, Sierra can put De Aza or Eaton on the bench against left-handed pitching, against whom his career strikeout rate drops to 21%.
At nothing else, he's an athletic, reactive hitter, who'd be interesting if he developed some area of focus in the strike zone.
Improbably surviving for now as a result of Danks' continued misery is Marcus Semien, who in a month and a half has transformed from a darling of those who analyze minor leaguers by their statistical line, to a darling of those who ignore large segments of the statistical line of major leaguers they observe.
Semien has a .217/.280/.348 batting line and is striking out in 30% of his plate appearances. As an outsider, that would be enough to conclude he should be sent down if possible. Obviously Gordon Beckham has been allowed to play through equally rough periods, but the cupboard is not as relentlessly bare as it once was.
But it's close observation of Semien that has everyone charmed. While he's struggling, he doesn't fail the way a typically overmatched prospect fails. He's extremely laborious at the plate, averaging 4.18 pitches per plate appearance. Part of that is the adage that it takes at least three pitches to strike out, but he's inclined to wait out a good count, and force pitchers to prod his flaws and execute pitches to get him out.
The problem is that they can. Semien's Brooks Baseball readouts show he simply cannot layoff major league-quality breaking stuff when it's offered at him. Combined with a not particularly swift bat against fastballs, he has too many flaws to overcome if pitchers can hit their spots. But since Semien's process is steady and doesn't waver for big situations, which again lends him a quality that can set him apart from typical youngsters, even if his struggles are just as pronounced.
Semien needs more exposure to high-quality breaking stuff and he needs to adjust, but can do that better with full-time play in Triple-A, where there are at least plenty of former major leaguers, then he can picking together the scraps left behind by Beckham and Gillaspie and bouncing across the diamond.
If the Sox worry that such a move would further unsettle Semien or give him the feeling he failed or blew his opportunity, they could shine up the same line they use on Danks: "You'll be back."