Name: Marcus Lemon
DOB: June 3, 1988
This feature article appeared on September 3, 2007
"I feel pretty good," said Marcus Lemon about his 2007 season. "Not too bad. Our team is in the playoffs and we're getting ready to finish the season up here."
While Lemon currently feels good about his season, he struggled through the season's first two months. The shortstop – who skipped short-season A ball – batted just .213 with 10 extra base hits in April and May. Despite the sluggish start, Lemon says he is accustomed to playing against older competition.
"I never felt overwhelmed at the plate," said Lemon. "As a young guy, with travel teams, we always played against older guys."
Lemon believes the Midwest's cold weather was the biggest reason for his early-season struggles.
"It was just being in a new surrounding and playing in the cold," explained Lemon. "Being from Florida and playing rookie ball in Arizona last year, I had never experienced playing in the snow. That probably had to be the toughest thing for me."
The 19-year-old has rebounded from that slow start to hit .282 in June, July, and August. Lemon has also displayed more power in the second half, as four of his five triples and all three of his home runs have come since the All-Star break. The Florida native chalks his extra power up to comfort.
"That's just being comfortable," said Lemon. "I've been trying to get in the zone and when you're seeing the ball well, a lot of good things happen. I have been able to show a little bit of power."
One of the few negatives of Lemon's second half has been his base stealing. Although the shortstop has swiped six bases, he has been caught 12 times. After attempting only eight steals in the first half, the Rangers organization instructed Lemon to be more aggressive on the basepaths.
"Our organization told me they wanted me to be more aggressive because I wasn't stealing as much in the first half," he said. "It goes along with the fact that in the first couple months, I wasn't swinging the bat as well. I wasn't growing as a player because I wasn't getting on base and I wasn't able to run the bases."
With an on base percentage of nearly .400 in the second half, Lemon is now reaching base regularly. He believes this is allowing him to finally develop his baserunning.
"Now I'm making mistakes that I wasn't able to make early in the year because I wasn't on the bases," explained Lemon. "It's just a learning process. My confidence is still up and hopefully sooner than later I'll become a better base stealer."
At the plate, Lemon says he has been working on developing his skills as a leadoff hitter.
"As a leadoff hitter, seeing pitches," said Lemon when asked what he had been working on offensively. "If I get a pitch to move, I try to move it early in the count. If not, I try to battle and see some pitches so that helps the other guys too. Other than that, we've been working on thinking up the middle and the other way as a team."
Lemon initially began to heat up when former leadoff hitter Craig Gentry went down with an injury. It was then that the 5-foot-11 left-handed hitter was moved into the leadoff spot and started to excel. However, Lemon says he approaches each at bat the same way, no matter where he's hitting in the lineup.
"I can only be the hitter I am," said Lemon. "It doesn't matter if I'm hitting first or if I'm hitting ninth. I'm going to approach my at bats the same way."
The son of former big leaguer Chet Lemon, Marcus has always been known to be mature for his age both on and off the field. But Lemon has struggled in the field at times this season, as he leads the LumberKings with 30 errors. The shortstop states that he has been more aggressive in the field this year.
"I'm more aggressive," said Lemon on his defense. "Every year I think you can learn to be more aggressive or not to be overaggressive. You have to know the runners. I've learned that the game is at a much faster level, but I've always kind of known that because my dad told me. It has been a lot of the little things. You can always learn a lot of the little things."
With the minor league regular season coming to a close, the LumberKings are already ensured a spot in the Midwest League playoffs. Lemon thinks his team's current situation can help relieve some stress, but it can add some pressure as well.
"It takes a little pressure off us because we're guaranteed a spot in the playoffs," Lemon said, "but it also puts on a little pressure because we're a little bit different team than we were in the first half. It puts a little pressure on us because it would be nice to get hot towards playoff time."
Once Clinton's season ends, Lemon will report to Surprise for fall Instructional League. While the Rangers have not yet told Lemon what he will be working on there, he believes he will continue to work on the skills necessary to a leadoff hitter.
"I'm pretty sure that because I'm a leadoff hitter, bunting and stealing will probably be something that I'll work on."
Batting and Power: Lemon flashed his advanced approach as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League last season. Though he will never have much power, Lemon does show a bit of pop when turning on inside pitches. He is also not afraid to use the entire field, often going the other way with pitches on the outer half of the plate. The left-handed hitter is a patient hitter who is unafraid to work the count. Lemon drew 56 walks last season and batted .295/.389/.413 (AVG/OBP/SLG) from the leadoff spot in 2007.
Base Running and Speed: Lemon has solid-average speed but his baserunning skills showed to be extremely underdeveloped last season. The infielder swiped 12 bases with Clinton, but he was caught 14 times. After attempting just eight stolen bases in the first half, the Rangers instructed Lemon to be more aggressive on the basepaths, leading to 18 second-half attempts (12 of which were unsuccessful).
Defense: Many observers believe Lemon will stick at shortstop while others think he will eventually be moved to second base. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Should the Florida native reach the major leagues, he would probably see time at both positions. Lemon has good range, but his arm isn't particularly strong. His team-leading 31 errors last season showed he is raw defensively. Many of Lemon's errors were of the throwing variety, as he had a tendency to get over-aggressive in the field. Because of his excellent work ethic and plus makeup, Lemon's defense figures to improve as he moves up the organizational ladder.
Projection: The Rangers displayed their faith in Lemon when they gave him a $1 million bonus two years ago, by far the highest of any 2006 fourth rounder. Because he doesn't possess any outstanding tools, his ceiling is not as high as some of the system's other top prospects. But the Rangers love the infielder's makeup and work ethic and they believe it will eventually carry him to the major leagues. Whether or not Lemon will become an everyday player is in debate, but he should at least be a versatile infielder who can play at shortstop and second base. He never figures to develop much power, but Lemon has an advanced, patient approach that could make him a high on-base-percentage hitter down the line.
2008 Outlook: The Rangers challenged Lemon last season by jumping the then-18-year-old to Single-A Clinton for the entire season. Lemon will likely be challenged again in 2008 when he looks to make the jump to High-A Bakersfield. Even with an outstanding season, it would seem unlikely that the Rangers would jump Lemon to the Double-A level at such a young age.
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