The White Sox have been patient with second baseman Gordon Beckham the past four seasons -- for two reasons.
First, rare is the major-league team that quickly pulls the plug on a No. 8 overall draft pick, which Beckham was in 2008 after leading the University of Georgia to the College World Series.
Second, the Sox haven't had many options in the minor leagues at second base.
This year, things are a little different.
Rather than extend Beckham this winter, the Sox opted to avoid salary arbitration and settle on a one-year, $4.175 million contract.
That's a sign the White Sox might be willing to give Beckham just one more chance to show he's the same player that appeared in 103 games as a rookie in 2009 and batted .270 with 14 home runs and 63 RBI in 103 games.
Over the past four seasons, Beckham has been a .244 hitter and averaged 10 home runs and 44 RBI.
Clearly, major improvement is needed, and this time around the White Sox have a pair of interesting potential replacements at second base.
Marcus Semien hit a combined .284 with 32 doubles, 6 triples, 19 home runs, 66 RBI, 24 stolen bases and 110 runs scored with Class AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte last season. After joining the Sox in September, Semien batted .261 and had 3 homers and 7 RBI in 21 games.
A versatile player, Semien plays second base, shortstop and third base.
While Semien appears ready to make the full-time jump to the major leagues this season, likely in a reserve role, Micah Johnson probably needs some more minor seasoning before arriving with an even higher ceiling.
Johnson had a combined .312/.373/.451 hitting line and stole the most bases (84) in professional baseball last season with Class A Kannapolis, A Winston-Salem and Birmingham. The 23-year-old switch hitter batted .320 and stole three bases in six games during the Arizona Fall League before having surgery to reposition a nerve in his right elbow in late October.
Johnson had a similar procedure in the summer of 2011 when he was playing college ball at Indiana, but he said he's 100 percent heading into spring training.
"The surgery was flawless," he said in late January. "Everything is good. Last season was awesome. I really don't go into a season with too many lofty goals or expectations because I know its baseball. I just want to play hard every day and stay healthy."
In fairness to Beckham, he was not healthy for most of last season, when he had a .267/.322/.372 slash line along with 5 home runs and 24 RBI in 103 games.
Beckham missed most of the first two months with a fractured left hand, and a strained quad slowed the 27-year-old infielder over the final two months.
"I feel good and my body feels healed from the injuries I had," he said before heading to spring training. "I was struggling last year. I felt like I was just limping around the last month-and-a-half.
"It was tough. It was a tough year for everybody, not just me but the way the team went, how many games we lost. It was very trying on us and our patience, but it will be good motivation for this year to make sure we remember."