A year ago, we had a wee bit of controversy on the site in our shortstop rankings. We had eight rankers, and six of them had Jean Segura in the top six, while I was the lowest on him, at No. 9. In a back-and-forth with Kantecki later that week, I explained why I was down on the guy.
In short, Segura's first half of 2013 had been great, but it had also been out of character, and it didn't sustain into the season's second half. I wasn't on board with him as a double-digit homer guy, as a close-to-.300 average guy.
Kantecki and I went back and forth, and I bring this up now largely because Kantecki will likely read this and I will get to laugh one last time about how thoroughly I ended up smoking him in the debate, as Segura came out last year with a .246/.289/.326 slash line and five homers. More frustratingly, he stole only 20 bases, giving him less value than even I predicted.
(Eat it, Kantecki.)
Which brings me to 2015, where as it turns out I'm one of our highest rankers on Mr. Segura. No one has him as a top-10 shortstop this year, as he has clearly fallen out of favor. But methinks the hate has gone too far.
First off, my reasons for being down on 2014 Segura. They were, in retrospect, fair. His power of the first half of 2013 didn't repeat, which was predictable - he had never hit more than 10 homers in a full season before an 11-homer first half in 2014. Keith Law noted in early scouting reports on Segura that he needed avoid selling out his hit tool for the sake of a little pop he didn't have; long-term, that power streak might have been the worst possible thing to happen to Segura.
As an Elvis Andrus/vintage-Everth Cabrera type, though, Segura should see an uptick in 2015. The most obvious reason, as it so often is, is his BABIP. After a .326 mark in 2013 - which makes sense, as a super-fast runner who doesn't strike out a lot - and never a mark under .302 since an 11-game 2008 in rookie ball, Segura fell to a .275 BABIP last year.
More or less for Segura, every hit he had last year accounted for .002 batting average points. Try to excise some luck, give him a normalized-for-him BABIP - play it conservative, say it's .300 even - and he has a batting average around .265 in 2014. Still not great, to be sure, but nothing like the disaster season he had, especially when you consider those extra hits might well have resulted in more runs, more RBI and/or more steals.
His batted-ball profile in 2014 didn't change much from 2013. His GB/FB rate and percentages of line drives and everything else remained basically steady, with two notable exceptions. His HR/FB rate fell by more than half, which was more a result of a too-high 2013 than a too-low 2014. But also, his infield hit rate, which fell from 13.1 percent in 2013 to 9.8 last year. That's part of the BABIP equation, and something that a speedy runner is likely to see normalize in the long run.
Segura had a rough 2014. He was hit in the head with a bat early, and lost his 9-month-old son later. One probably took at least a small physical toll; the other had to have taken an unimaginable emotional one. We'll never know if either of those had any effect on his 2014, but at the very least, neither one could have helped.
Now, the basepaths. Segura stole 44 bases in 2013 after 44 across all levels of the game in 2012. That crashed down to 20 last year. And that despite, as Kantecki noted last year, being on a team in the Brewers that tends to like to run. Assuming Segura gets on base more successfully than he did last season, there's every reason to think he'll keep running.
I'm not targeting Segura this year. Not as my starter. I think he'll never again have a stretch like his first half of 2013, particularly from a power perspective. But as a middle infielder, he's a guy who should have a better batting average (with more run-scoring opportunities as a result) than in 2014, and odds are good he'll run the bases more than he did last year as well. That's not the superstar of April-June, 2013. It is a functional fantasy player, though.
And I'm happy to re-debate Kantecki on the subject. You know, unless he's chicken.