Last season was a nightmare for Milwaukee Brewers’ shortstop, Jean Segura. After an All-Star campaign in 2013, the young shortstop suffered both on and off the field in 2014. His production declined steeply, as Segura managed only a 67 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus, league average 100) and .272 wOBA (weighted on base average) in 2014, tumbling from marks of 105 wRC+ and .329 wOBA the year before. Segura also endured the loss of his infant son in July of last season.
Segura’s approach at the plate early in his career has been a recipe for inconsistency. While swinging mostly flat-footed and with little patience at the plate, Segura hit ground balls at just a shade under 59%, or more than 14% higher than the league average of 44.8% last season. Segura’s inability to drive the ball led to below league average line drive rates, and while he was able to hit the BABIP (batting average on balls in play) jackpot in 2013, he managed to hit only .275 on balls in play last season, which was the 23rd lowest mark among players with 500 plate appearances in 2014. His power was non-existent, with only 25 extra base hits and an .080 ISO in 146 games, and his 0.0 fWAR was the defintion of a replacement player.
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During the offseason, Jean began to work on some minor changes in his swing. Segura made a small alteration to his weight shift, an attempt to stay back on the ball more and get more drive behind it. Using his new swing mechanics, Segura posted a strong spring, hitting .305/.349/.424 in 59 at bats while slugging five doubles and a triple. Not much can usually be drawn from Spring Training results, but the improved offensive numbers Segura posted were encouraging nonetheless.
We’ve now been through a bit more than a week of regular season baseball, and despite the Brewers slow start out of the gates, their shortstop has continued his torrid pace. In 25 plate appearances for the 2-5 Brewers, Segura has slashed .304/.360/.522. His .384 wOBA and 151 wRC+ both rank fourth among qualified NL shortstops, while his 0.3 fWAR through seven games ties him for second.
Though it has no doubt been a small sample size, Segura’s batted ball distribution thus far should be cause for plenty of optimism. Using his re-tooled swing, Segura has cut his ground ball rate by over 6% from 2014, down to 52.6%, while increasing his line drive rate by nearly three percent. While Segura’s 20% HR/FB ratio is not sustainable over 162 games, Segura should be able to continue driving extra base hits (of which he has three thus far) throughout the season if he can maintain a similar batted ball profile. Though his patience still leaves much to be desired (just one walk this season), he continues to make contact at a high rate (12.5% since the start of last season), and his new approach should lead to a bump up in his BABIP over the long haul.
Following a tough season in 2014, the Milwaukee Brewers’ young shortstop Jean Segura adjusted his swing mechanics in an effort to become a better hitter. So far, the adjustments have paid off in spades, and Segura has been among the best shortstops in the league through the season’s first week. Though it’s just a small sample size over the course of sport’s longest season, if the changes we have seen in Segura’s batted ball profile can remain steady, he could be even better offensively than the player we saw in 2013; and at the very least, more consistent than the player he was last season. While it’s dangerous to read too much into things this early in the season, it’s hard not to be excited about what the future could hold for the reinvigorated Jean Segura.