After reading Ray's early second base rankings for 2017, the first thing that jumped out at me was that Jean Segura seemed to be ranked a bit too high. But after reading through the list more carefully and spending some time considering what he did last year, I realized that Segura was probably right where he should be... and that anything much lower would just be wishful thinking on my part. I liked him as a sleeper last year but only drafted him in one league, and I guess I was kind of hoping that no one had really noticed him and that I could still sneak him onto my teams next year after 8 or 10 other second basemen were off the board. Now I'm realizing, of course, that this is extremely unlikely to happen. Even playing for what might have been the most disappointing major league team last year when it comes to the difference between preseason expectations and on-field performance, Segura was noticed -- at least by the fantasy baseball world. His numbers this year: .319 batting average, 20 home runs, 102 runs, 64 RBI, 33 steals. So, I realize that if I want to draft him next year, the price will be high. Since I tend to have an aversion to overpaying for things, my first reaction was that I probably wouldn't end up with Segura on any of my teams in 2017. But after thinking about it, I'm still liking the notion of seeing Segura at second base on my fantasy rosters next year... even if I have to spend a high pick to get him there.
The one team that I drafted Segura on in 2016 was a standard roto, 10-team NL-only league, which happened to finish in first place. I may have a slight positive bias towards the players on this team due to its successful finish, but there is no doubt that Segura was a huge part of my success. I drafted him in the 9th round, at the end of a run on middle infielders and just after Joe Panik and Kolten Wong. Getting a guy I like at the end of a run, well into a draft, is exactly what I had hoped to do, since I went into my draft knowing that there were no middle infielders I wanted to spend a top pick on. Normally I would plan on going into next year with a similar strategy, but after looking at Ray's 2B rankings, I am already thinking that I may do things differently next year. When you take the National League players on his list and drop down to number ten, you're at Brandon Phillips, who is not someone I want to go into next year targeting. Not sure who would come next in an NL-only league -- Neil Walker, Cesar Hernandez, or Jedd Gyorko maybe? -- but I know it's not anyone who I will be aiming to draft. In the NL, I feel like there is a top tier of second basemen that consists of Daniel Murphy, Segura, and Trea Turner, and a second tier of Matt Carpenter, Dee Gordon, Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist, and DJ LeMahieu... and that no matter what, I'm going to want at least one of these guys on my team. While I don't mind some of the second tier options at the right point in a draft, I'm thinking that I might have to overpay to get one of them to make sure I don't end up on the wrong side of a run... so if I'm drafting a guy earlier than I'd like to anyway, I want it to be the guy I think is most likely to earn his draft position.
I would love to have Turner on a team or two next year, but I have a feeling he will go even higher than expected in most drafts... perhaps rightfully so, but I suspect I just won't be the one who pulls the trigger that early. And I loved Murphy so much coming in to this year that it will be hard for me to pass him up in drafts next year, but I am really thinking at this point that I'd rather have Segura straight up. Basically, it's the potential power/speed combo that I just can't resist, and it's ultimately what helped me win my league this year. In the league I owned Segura, I had an overwhelming lead in stolen bases about two-thirds of the way through the season, but was beginning to suffer in home runs. My two main power sources, Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour, were both hurt, and the waiver wire was picked clean. I figured I needed to trade one of my speed guys for a power hitter, and started looking through rosters and going over numbers (I also owned Jonathan Villar in this league, whom I could -- and probably will -- write a separate article on). But I realized that the power Segura and Villar could give me if they kept up what they'd been doing all year was too valuable to trade away, even if I ended up with literally dozens more steals than I needed (which I did). I normally hate having a big surplus in a category, but in this case it made sense... and even with Stanton and Bour not returning in time to provide the home runs I knew I needed, I think not making a trade is what ultimately won me the league.
I'm certainly not sure Segura can repeat what he did in 2016, but I do like the Diamondbacks lineup going into next year, and I really like the idea of Segura at the top of it. I can't think of any reason not to pencil him in for another 30 steals next year. I do have to think his batting average will drop significantly from this year's .319 (among other things, his BABIP this year was almost 40 points higher than his career number), but even a significant drop would make him a positive contributor in that category. The power is a bit of a wild card, but one that I think I will want to gamble on. He hit more fly balls this year (27.8% FB rate vs. 24.3% career) and hit the ball harder (29.7% Hard % vs. 24.6% career). These numbers build just enough on his career marks that they don't look like outliers to me, and I am hoping they are the result of a hitter maturing into his power. Next year is Segura's age 27 season, which, even if you don't believe in the power of age 27 in baseball, at least reminds us that he is still in his prime, to say the least. Sure, his 20 home runs this year could prove to be flukey -- after all, he played over 140 games in both 2014 and 2015, and only hit 11 in those two seasons combined. But this seems like a situation where his emotional state may have played into his 2016 success as much as any numbers or charts could have... maybe he was relaxed, confident, and truly comfortable for the first time. This, combined with him simply growing into his power, makes me think he has a shot at another 20 home run season next year. And a second baseman that is likely to hit for average and has the potential to put up a 20/30 season is exactly what I'd like on my 2017 fantasy teams... some things are simply worth paying for.