Continuing the new feature I started with Matt Carpenter, Shuffling the Deck will focus on players who find themselves worth a lot more in dynasty formats right now than they were at the beginning of the year, and vice versa. The positivity continues this week as we focus on the emergence of a new fantasy star at shortstop.
It’s no secret that I heart Jean Segura. After missing most of 2011 with an injury, I still ranked him 35th among dynasty league prospects coming into 2012. Then, I ranked him 14th among shortstops this pre-season, and here was my blurb from late January:
“I am a huge advocate of Segura’s and think he has a shot to be a poor man’s Jose Reyes. He’s got very good contact skills, as shown by his career .313 batting average and 12% strikeout rate in the minors. He’s also got good pop for his size, with the ability to hit 10-15 HR in his prime – especially in Miller Park. But those are nice sideshows. The main attraction with Segura is his speed, which could net him 40+ steals annually. There’s clearly risk here, but he’s a high upside fantasy SS, and could be a difference maker as soon as 2013.”
And that was just the beginning. I took him in both of my expert mock drafts from early in the pre-season, one at Rotoworld and one at Fangraphs. Then I made a bold prediction about him here right before the season started. Then I made another bold prediction about him once April ended. And that’s just about enough for an introduction.
Exactly one week older than the best young fantasy option at the position heading into the season, Starlin Castro, Segura has the pedigree worthy of supplanting the fellow NL Central shortstop. Signed in 2007, Segura began to make a name for himself as a 19-year old when he hit .346/.392/.512 with 11 steals and 11 strikeouts in 177 plate appearances while playing in the Pioneer League. Of course, that is a league which is offense-heavy, so eyes were scheduled to be firmly planted on him in the Midwest League the following season. I say scheduled because there was an 18-year old named Mike Trout hitting ahead of Segura in the lineup for over three months in Cedar Rapids that may have taken some of the attention off him. However, at the end of the season, Segura ended up with a .313/.365/.464 line, 10 homers and 50 steals in 130 games.
Since 2010 ended, Segura’s had a major injury (torn hamstring in 2011), an organization change (traded from Angels to Brewers in the Zack Greinke deal), a position switch (from 2B to SS, which he’s handled well) and a breakout season. So there hasn’t been a lack of excitement in the last three years for the 23-year old. The biggest remaining question though is how much of this 2013 performance should we expect going forward–and let’s jump right in.
The easy first answer is the speed, which boils down to two basic elements. First, Ron Roenicke loves to run–the Brewers lead the league in stolen bases going away, and are the only team to eclipse triple-digits this season. Secondly, Segura is good at it, stealing bases at an 84.4 percent clip at the major league level after carrying a 78.5 percent success rate in the minor leagues. Expecting 40 steals, and potentially more, from him going forward is perfectly reasonable.
After that, there’s the batting average and counting stats. When the Brewers’ lineup is healthy, Segura fits nicely in either the lead-off or number two spot, right in front of Ryan Braun. In 83 games in that number two spot, Segura has scored 51 runs, which is a nice 100-run pace–despite Milwaukee’s offense being down this year compared to previous seasons. Expecting 90-100 annually going forward sounds about right, especially since he’ll likely never be a huge on-base guy due to his contact-oriented approach. But speaking of that contact-oriented approach, he also has a good chance to maintain a near .300 average in the future due to a high ground ball rate (61.3 percent for his career) and low strikeout rate (13.5 percent for his career).
Then there’s the question of power. Segura had 11 homers through 72 games, but in his last 35 games, he’s had one. Add in the fact that he hits the ball on the ground so much, and it’s natural to wonder whether he’s really just a five homer guy who just got lucky for a few months. On one hand, you can look at those 12 homers he’s hit and notice that 75 percent of them have been labeled as “just enough” by ESPN Hit Tracker Online. And on the other hand, you can look at his average fly ball distance of 296 feet, right behind Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce. It also doesn’t hurt that he plays half his games at Miller Park, where the RH power factor is 138 (100 is average). In the end, my power projection from his minor league days still hasn’t changed despite both sides of this coin. I still view him as a 10-12 homer guy, who could hit around 15 at his power peak in a few years.
In the last Dynasty 500, Segura was the last cut from the Top 50. But if I were to re-do the list today, he’d almost certainly be higher. With Segura’s emergence, the continued high-level performance from Ian Desmond and my belief that Starlin Castro is still alive, the shortstop position is gaining overall strength. However, even with the positional tide rising, Segura is approaching the cream of the crop for fantasy purposes. If he’s a poor man’s Jose Reyes now, it’s likely the difference a dollar and 90 cents. There’s going to have to be a bit of a longer track record before he’s elevated to the highest of heights for fantasy, but Segura is real, and he’s fantastic.
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