Thanks to a suggestion from reader/commenter "CrazyT," two Fake Teams' writers -- Alex Kantecki and Daniel Kelley -- participated in an email exchange over the weekend arguing the 2014 ranking of Brewers shortstop Jean Segura. While Alex ranked Segura fourth in the Fake Teams Consensus Shortstop Rankings, Daniel was less enthused and slotted the 23-year-old at No. 9. The following is a word-for-word recap of their email discussion:
DK: Okay, Kantecki, I guess I should start off by congratulating you on 500 followers. Though, it occurs to me as I write this, I might not be one.
(Goes, checks, follows)
Okay, Kantecki, I guess I should start off by congratulating you on 501 followers. Maybe send some my way? Though I'm still bitter you snaked Hosmer from me in that mock we did last fall, so I've got extra motivation to beat you in this little debate. I'll start simple. Why should I buy Segura's first half of 2013 over his pedigree entering the year AND his second half?
AK: 501? I was at 502 this morning. WHO UNFOLLOWED ME???
(Goes, checks, sends angry tweet)
The last I checked, the first 81 games count just as much as the second 81 games. Segura was a fantasy MVP last season. M-V-P! He had an ADP in the upper 200s and, among shortstops, finished first in steals (44), second in batting average (.294) and fifth in runs (74). Yes, Segura slowed down in the second half. His power disappeared and his average fell from .325 to .241, but he was still chugging along on the base paths, stealing 17 bags in 54 games.
It's easy to say Segura's 2014 season will be somewhere in-between, but who's to say his second half wasn't flukier than his first? What if he started the season slow and ended strong? Maybe it's simply the case of a 23-year-old rookie hitting the wall a bit early. I can't fault a rook for slowing down when vets do it, too. Jason Kipnis is a great example of this, yet he's still high on consensus ranks. What aren't you buying here?
DK: Hey, I'm sitting here at only 207 followers. You don't get to complain.
Anyway, I'm not just basing my evaluation on his second half of 2013. The player he was then was the player he was expected to be coming up (with perhaps a bit less batting average). "Minor-league Segura" was expected to be a moderate-to-decent hitter for average with little-to-no pop. Plenty of speed, but basically no power. Keith Law even mentioned that Segura's struggles in the minors came when he tried to hit for power at the expense of his average.
To me, that might have been what happened in the second half last year. Dude came out and had 11 home runs through June, which he was never supposed to be able to do. To me, he got a little homer-happy and that messed with his swing (but that's just conjecture). What I do know is that he hit 12 home runs last year after single-season totals of 0-3-10-4-7. He couldn't take a walk last year to save his life. If he doesn't get that worked out, he's going to stop getting hittable pitches. And even his steals represented basically a lifetime high; he only showed similar wheels in 2010.
Basically, we got a few months of Segura, superstar, which countered a few years of Segura, above-average-at-best prospect, and came before a few months of Segura, awfulness. So no, I'm not taking MY 81 games against YOUR 81 games, I'm taking my 81 games AND years of scouting and data. So why does the first half of 2013 sway you?
AK: I think we're underselling Segura's minor-league track record just a little. He's the owner of a .313/.367/.439 slash line in six seasons on the farm, including yearly finishes of .354 (2009), .313 (2010), .293 (2011) and .304 (2012). You bring up Segura's low walk rate, but you fail to mention his very low strikeout rate (13.6 percent career). When you combine that with above-average speed and the ability to put the ball on the ground at a 60.1 percent clip, a .290-.300 BA is easily repeatable. I'm also not convinced Segura got "homer happy" in the second half. He actually hit more balls on the ground after the All-Star break, but his BABIP was nearly 65 points lower (.349 vs. .285). Segura has never had a BABIP below .300 on any level, so I view that as an anomaly more than anything.
I do hear you on the power. There is something very weird and unsettling about 11 homers in the first half vs. one home run in the second half, but Segura does have that Miller Park thing going for him. Milwaukee's home is one of the friendliest for right-handed hitters, and that should benefit his power going forward. Eight of Segura's 12 home runs in 2013 were labeled as "just enough" by ESPN's Home Run Tracker, but his batted ball distance (296 feet) was very impressive for a guy of his stature. Maybe Segura is closer to a 10-home run guy than a 12-home run guy, but that's something you'll gladly take from a shortstop whose best asset is his speed. Speaking of his speed, do you not believe 40 steals is doable again? Doesn't that make him worth the gamble as a potential top three or four shortstop?
DK: You're right that he's got good enough bat control to avoid the strikeout. But for me, I'm only comfortable saying he's got that "so far." We remember the Vladimir Guerrero types who swing at everything and make it work; we don't remember the guys who come up as similar hackers and start hot, only for pitchers to say, "Hey, wait, throw this guy a ball and he'll chase." Even if he keeps making contact (no sure thing), that contact becomes less "sweet-spotty."
Anyway, you paint him as a 10-homer guy with 40 steals and a batting average in the, what, .280 range? I see a guy who is more like a five-homer guy. I see a batting average that maxes out at .260 or .270. Maybe 30-35 steals, sure. I'm not saying Segura will be a disaster. I'm just saying he's behind Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Ian Desmond, (all of which we agree on), Jose Reyes, Elvis Andrus, Ben Zobrist, Everth Cabrera, and Jhonny Peralta. I'm sure I'll hear all sorts of noise about my Peralta ranking, so put him aside for now. If Segura regresses in power to where I think he will, isn't he just a Reyes, a Cabrera, or an Andrus with fewer steals? So, the only way he avoids that is for your caveats -- his Miller Park-ness, his decent batted-ball distance -- to keep helping him out. And he had all those factors working for him in (a) his 44-game taste in 2012, and (b) the second half of last year. They didn't do anything for him.
I guess my point is that I won't be devastated if Segura is my starting shortstop in 2014. But I don't think he will be in any leagues, because I could always do better.
AK: Vladimir Guerrero is so dreamy. You have me all flustered now.
I do paint Segura as a 10-12 home run bat capable of maintaining a batting average above .280. Most importantly, I believe in the speed. Ron Roenicke loves to run. The Brewers were first in the National League in stolen bases (142) last season, and Segura is their No. 1 threat on the base paths. In the minors, he was 139-for-177 (78.5 percent), and he's been even better at the major league level with a 78.4 percent success rate. Another 40 steals wouldn't surprise me. At the least, I'm expecting 35.
Among shortstops, I have Segura ranked behind only Hanley, Tulo and Desmond. I guess where we disagree the most is power, but I believe his quick bat speed and home park will aid his power numbers going forward. He's still 23 and I can see a season with 15 home runs mixed in there. As far as counting stats go, I don't think it's unreasonable to project 80 runs. Milwaukee is getting back Ryan Braun, a healthy Aramis Ramirez and an underrated Jonathan Lucroy. I like what I saw form Segura in 2013, and I think it's a skill set that's repeatable. Now excuse me while I search Vlad on YouTube.
DK: I feel like we aren't actually that far off on Segura. We just have our error bars in different places. It sounds to me like you think last season is his baseline, and he could slide up or down from there, while I think last year is his ceiling, and his baseline will be a bit lower, with a floor that could be crazy low.
What this means is that I'm almost certainly wrong having Segura ninth. If I'm wrong about him, he'll be where you all say -- fourth, fifth. But if I'm right, he'll be a guy in the teens. Ninth is basically a split-the-difference rank. I just prefer the relative sure things of the guys I have above him.
But hey, what do I know. You're the guy with now 510 followers. Dang, you're famous.