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So, Is Jean Segura For Real?

Last week we talked about players who have been under-hyped, maybe someone who’s about to have a breakout year or just hasn’t been recognized and now finally will. This week we’ll be looking at the opposite end of the spectrum, as in the players who did well in 2016 but might not repeat their successes this year. With that I say: how about Jean Segura?

It feels like Segura has been around for awhile already, but keep in mind that he’s still only 26 years-old. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic as an amateur signing back in 2007, and he was in Class A ball by 2010. He hit .313/.365/.464 (127 wRC+) that year, and progressed his way to Double-A by the beginning of 2012. Going into that year, he had already made it to the Top 100 prospect lists: he was listed as the 55th, 55th , and 67th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus, respectively.

Here’s what FanGraphs said about him in August of 2012, where Mike Newman gave him glowing reviews:

“Peter Gammons recently posted a tweet comparing Segura as the middle infield equivalent to Raul Mondesi, a member of the 30/30 club. This blew me away as I remember Mondesi as one of the most physically gifted baseball players of my teens and twenties, and he hit .299/.339/.511 through his age-26 season. After seeing Segura in person, I better understood the comparison, as the shortstop’s physical gifts include both strength and speed bordering on elite for the position… This weakness becomes brutally obvious against off-speed pitches. On at least a handful of occasions, Segura flailed wildly at breaking balls and changeups in the dirt. In the short term, pitchers should be able to exploit this, though Segura’s contact rates suggest that it shouldn’t be a long term problem… In four seasons, Jean Segura is the best shortstop I’ve scouted not named Jurickson Profar.”

Pretty rave reviews for a guy we’re now debating in 2016. He spent three-and-a-half years in Milwaukee after being sent over in the Zack Greinke deal, and he hit a measly 81 OPS+ over 1927 plate appearances. He was flipped to Arizona in January of last year in a small deal for Chase Anderson and Aaron Hill, a far cry from his earlier trade value. That’s where things changed.

He hit a whopping .319/.368/.499 (126 wRC+) with 20 home runs in 694 plate appearances, good for 5.0 fWAR! By BTBS’s estimations, it beat the 90th percentile PECOTA projections, and they had some other interesting thoughts. They discuss there are actual changes he made: he lowered his hands in his batting stance, which allowed to get inside the ball. He nearly tripled his walk rate, he hit nearly half of his career home runs in one season, and his hard-hit ball rate jumped to 29.7%, up from 19.7% a year earlier.

Let’s get down to brass tacks, though. Is this for real? That’s the million-dollar question, especially if you’re the Mariners and you’re dealing Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte in exchange for him. BTBS admits that it can’t fully be real, saying that “It appears that Segura became a better baseball player, but he’s likely to regress some next year”. Jeff Zimmerman of FanGraphs agrees as well from a fantasy standpoint, stating:

“Out of the past four seasons, he has produced 1.5 good seasons… I don’t buy he [is] a .320 AVG, 20 HR, 30 SB guy… On the other hand, other owners are willing to completely ignore those seasons [2013 and 2014]. I am not and on draft or auction day, it just takes one other person to take him higher for his overall value to get inflated. I really like where Steamer has him with a .273 AVG, 13 HR, and 25 SB. I could see the home runs be a bit less (10) and stolen base higher (30). Don’t be the person who pays for this 2016 production, with his likely true value somewhere in between.”

I’ll be clear: I don’t think Segura falls off the map or anything, and I think he very well could be a league average player for the Mariners in 2017. But to expect a 120 wRC+ would be absurd. Even though he made adjustments that really worked out, the league has a way of catching up. What really makes a player elite is not the first adjustment, but the adjustment to the adjustments, and so on and so forth.

I think he hits at about a league average clip, but his BABIP will likely dip, as well as his power production. Just like with my Robbie Ray estimation, I don’t see a total reversal in fortune, but I would take the under on Segura.

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Matt Provenzano is a recent graduate of Cornell University, where he studied Information Science and Law and Society. He has been a Staff Writer at SB Nation's Pinstripe Alley since 2013, and a baseball fan since 2002.

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