When the Milwaukee Brewers acquired Jean Segura from the Los Angeles Angels in 2012, it appeared that the team had locked down the long term future for the position. At the time, the 22 year old Segura was considered a consensus top 75 prospect in all of baseball, having put together a career .807 OPS in six minor league seasons while showing good range at both shortstop and second base. Segura played eight games for the Brewers’ AA affiliate before being installed as the major league starter (skipping AAA completely), and by the end of the season his .264/.321/.331 line in 44 games had convinced the team to give him the job heading into 2013.
During the first half of 2013, it appeared Milwaukee had found themselves a franchise player. The slick-fielding shortstop was named an All-Star after hitting .325/.363/.487 in the first half, slugging 11 home runs and stealing 27 bases. However, warning signs were present during this ‘breakout;’ Segura walked just 4.3% of the time, his 58.2% ground ball rate was quite high, and a .349 BABIP was a major driving force behind his stellar batting average.
Since that All-Star appearance, Segura simply hasn’t produced the same results at the plate. Over his last 274 games, he’s hit just .252/.288/329, establishing himself as a below-average hitter with almost no power at the plate. He’s hit for extra bases just 49 times over that span, including nine home runs and a .076 ISO. He’s walked in just 4.1% of his plate appearances, and managed only a .287 BABIP despite hitting the ball on the ground 59% of the time. This is likely due in part to a rather low 21.9% hard hit rate, a drop of 7% from that 2013 campaign. Segura’s average exit velocity of 87.57 MPH this season ranks him 203rd in the MLB (min. 50 ABs), while his average ground ball velocity of 86.55 MPH ranks 153rd.
Jean Segura’s 2015 zone profile, courtesy of Baseball Savant.
Jean Segura 2015 whiff profile, courtesy of Baseball Savant.
Segura’s biggest weakness at the plate is his inability to handle pitches on the outer half. According to Baseball Savant, Jean has seen 272 pitches in “Zone 14” this season, by far the most of any part of the strike zone (101 of these pitches have been sliders, a pitch that Fangraphs rates Segura as 2.1 runs below league average this season). He’s whiffed 33 times on pitches in zone 14 (12.1%, while owning a total whiff rate of just 7.4% this season) and has managed just a .238 batting average.
Yesterday, it was reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that Milwaukee is now showing a willingness to trade Segura, in spite of earlier reports stating that the 25 year old was not for sale. Though Segura remains under team control for another three seasons after 2015, he will be arbitration eligible after this year and he has previously turned down a long term extension. Milwaukee also has incredible middle infield depth right now; top-prospect Orlando Arcia has been called “the best player in the Southern League” and has rocketed all the way up to the #8 prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America. Arcia should be ready to take over in Milwaukee sometime in the middle 2016 (likely after the Super 2 cut-off), and in his stead the Brewers have a capable group of organizational depth-type players to keep the seat warm; this list includes the slick fielding pair of Yadiel Rivera and Luis Sardinas at AAA, recent waiver claim 24 year old Hernan Perez (who is hitting .338/.357/.500 since becoming a member of the Brewers), as well as veteran backups like Hector Gomez and Elian Herrera.
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So, why would another team look to acquire Segura, given the flaws listed above? For one, when we look at Segura in comparison to his peers at shortstop, his production looks a lot more palatable. While Segura’s wRC+ of 75 in 2015 is not something to write home about, the league average mark for shortstops this season is just 82. Segura’s 13 stolen bases rank him first among qualified shortstops and 1.6 baserunning runs tie him for fifth. According to Defensive Runs Saved, Segura has been an above average defender at short over the course of his career, as well.
While Jean Segura may never again be named an All-Star, he has certainly proven himself to be a useful player at the major league level. At his worst, he is about a league average hitter for his position, and if he can manage to hit increase hit hard hit rate and hit the BABIP jackpot again he can be an above average run creator. He is a solid defender and can use his blazing speed to beat out infield hits (9.6% infield hit percentage ranks 4th among qualified shortstops) and wreak havoc on the basepaths. Given the presence of Orlando Arcia and the rest of the excellent middle infield depth the Brewers’ possess, however, Segura has simply become expendable. With three years of club control remaining that should still be relatively inexpensive, there should be no shortage of suitors for Jean Segura, and the Brewers should be able to command a strong return for their starting shortstop.