Fangraphs.com's leaderboard is always a fascinating place. If you keep track of players from year to year, surprises show up there before they do in the national consciousness. Headley of the Padres was last year's big surprise. Recently, upon scouring the list, the name, Jean Segura, popped up. And while I should know every player in baseball since writing about the sport is what I do, Segura was an unknown to me. Who the heck is this guy and what is he doing tied for sixth among all position players in value?
One of my weak areas is keeping track of prospects. Guys like Craig Wieczorkiewicz (@mwltravelor) and Mike Schwartze (@Mike_Schwartze) as follows on Twitter help me get better at it, but it is still my weakness. As such, there was probably no way that I would have seen Jean Segura on Baseball America's top prospect list the last two years (55th and 57th). I would not have known that he was a free agent signing by the Angels way back in 2007 when he was only seventeen years old (Dominican Republic) and toiled in the minors for six seasons.
His .807 OPS in the minors is not eye-popping. But those numbers did include a good batting average, little plate patience, decent pop and good stolen base possibilities.
And I probably would not have noticed that Segura was part of the Zack Greinke trade that sent Greinke to the Angels and Segura as the best of the three players to go back to the Brewers. The Angels should have sent somebody else. Between Angels' shortstops, Harris and Aybar, they have totaled -0.3 in WAR this season. Jean Segura has already been worth 2.1 fWAR (2.2 rWAR) this season.
Thus, Jean Segura has been a bright spot in the otherwise dismal (last place) season the Brewers are having thus far in 2013. Segura's numbers are eye-popping now. His triple slash line is: .349/.392/.575 are very pretty. The slugging percentage is the most surprising. With six doubles, two triples and seven homers, Segura has already driven in eighteen runs and scored twenty-two. Add in his thirteen stolen bases out of fifteen attempts and some fantasy baseball player is probably hugging him or herself with making that selection earlier in the season.
Plus, Segura plays a prime position at shortstop and is showing above average range and above average reliability making the plays. And the best part is that he is only 23 years old.
Will Segura regress during the season? Well, sure. He is not going to hit .349. His BABIP sits currently at .373. He does not walk enough. Projections showing regression here too as thus far, his percentage of pitches swung at outside of the strike zone are down from his cups of coffee last year. I do not think his walk rate will regress as much as the projections are stating.
The power (His ISO sits at .226) has to regress. The most homers he ever hit in the minors was ten and his current seven already match his tops from the last two seasons. There is no way his home run to fly ball ratio is going to stay at the twenty percent level. But with his speed, the doubles and triple can keep coming.
Segura hits a lot of ground balls. His line drive percentage is driving his average right now at 20.3%. But his 1.88 ground ball to fly ball ratio will force the average to come down a bit if his line drive rate does not sustain itself. Of course, his speed still makes those ground balls a factor.
Jean Segura is currently the most valuable shortstop in baseball and the sixth highest position player overall. While I cannot see those placements maintaining themselves, there is no reason not to believe that Jean Segura should not finish with at least a four WAR season.
The poor Angels are scuffling along and their farm system is considered toast. Jean Segura is one that got away. From the Brewers' perspective, this is the kind of deal you make when making a trade deadline deal. Now I will know who Jean Segura is and if he plays like this, more people will know too. If he is not on the All Star ballot, write him in.