Jean Segura Causes Tears

Jean Segura caused many a fantasy owner to shed a tear or two or three this season. One of those many owners was me. After a breakout (at least in a fantasy sense) 2013 season, Segura shot up the preseason rankings, actually moving up to third by our crew. Instead, he finished just 16th in value, barely playable as a middle infielder in 12-team mixed leagues.

Let’s begin with his 2013 performance. That season was quite the tale of two halves. In the first half, he hit 11 of his 12 homers, batted .325, and stole 27 bases. The power surge was a surprise, but nothing else really was. Perhaps the .349 BABIP was a bit inflated, but with a strong contact rate, he could have been a legitimate .300 hitter. Unfortunately, he hit the skids in the second half, as his batting average plummeted to just .241 and he homered just once. Sure, you could partly blame his BABIP, which fell to just .285, but that wasn’t outrageously low. But he quit hitting line drives, which is kind of a problem when your goal is to collect base hits. So that low BABIP looks mostly deserved.

That second half power outage led most to believe his full season power line was a fluke and that second half was more in line with what should be expected in 2014. But the bottom line is that it actually didn’t matter all that much. Whether Segura was projected for five homers or 10 had little effect on his fantasy value.

What owners were excited about is a potentially high average guy in the middle infield who hits atop a pretty good lineup and has the speed to steal 40-50 bases. Since batted ball type distributions over a half season aren’t all that predictive, we really couldn’t panic about the lack of liners in the second half and drop in BABIP. Overall, his skill set suggested he should make a positive contribution in batting average.

While his second half did hint that his first half power was a fluke, his batted ball distance for the season did support the fact that his power took a leap forward. He finished 48th in distance with a 292 foot mark, which is rather shocking given his minor league history. Yes, his first half distance was higher at 304 feet versus 280 feet, but the 280 mark was still about league average and certainly should have resulted in more than just one long ball. And besides, why should his second half mark automatically represent his true talent level and not his first half? Because we didn’t think he had that much power so we’re engaging in confirmation bias? Because we think of the second half as the one in which players get adjusted to and is therefore more representative of the player’s true talent?

Whatever the explanation for his second half, if it wasn’t just random variation because this is baseball after all, fantasy owners were likely split heading into 2014. I was bullish as mentioned above, as I generally believed in the power and figured 40+ steals were in the bag. Unfortunately, he got off to a slow start and by April 22nd, was already dropped to 8th in the order. It was a hole he was never able to climb out of, aside from a game here and there, which made it nearly impossible for him to come anywhere close to earning his draft price.

Of course, Segura is only a top of the order hitter when his BABIP cooperates. He rarely walks, so his OBP is mostly batting average driven. That’s the risk that was probably overlooked by many of us. Aside from a decline in BABIP despite an extremely similar batted ball profile, Segura’s power disappeared. It was as if 2013 never even happened. His batted ball distance ranked just 249th at about 266 feet. This was more in line with what we all expected in the first place. But 2013 did happen and even during that poor second half, he was hitting balls 15 feet further on average. I think he has proven the power upside is still there to surprise and launch 15 homers one year, but that can’t be projected. A low fly ball rate is also limiting his home run ceiling.

His weak .246 batting average wasn’t the only thing to disappoint. He also stole just 20 bases, made only 29 attempts, and saw his success rate dip below 70%. You have to assume that a lot of this was because he was hitting at the bottom of the order and he’s not going to attempt a steal with the pitcher at the plate. But he stole just five bases in nine attempts in April when he mostly hit second. In fact, while batting first or second, he swiped a total of just eight bags in 15 tries, for a terrible 53% success rate. That came over 202 plate appearances. If you extrapolate that rate over his 2013 plate appearance total of 623, you get just 25 steals. So his spot in the batting order doesn’t provide the full explanation for his waning speed.

Since he’ll probably be slated to hit at the bottom of the order again to open the season, it’s difficult to project a big rebound. That the Brewers don’t have a prototypical leadoff hitter is a good thing and means that an early hot streak could certainly vault Segura back to the top of the order. Given that possibility and the fact that he still earned positive value this year means he might make for a decent buy low. It’s impossible to predict his cost, but I would imagine that the vast majority of fantasy owners believe that the 2014 version is the real Segura and he will therefore be able to be had rather cheaply in drafts.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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9 years ago

Remember, he lost a child in 2014. His frame of mind was obviously elsewhere.

Everything I have seen n read on him suggests he is a very humble n good person. As long as him n his family are moving forward positively, I see no reason for him not to be the player he is supposed to be.

I see Segura as one who will honor his late child by being the best person n player he can be.

For purposes of fantasy, invest heavily n be happy to own one of the good guys in the sport.

9 years ago
Reply to  Johnny

His son tragically passed away in mid-July, so his performance was horrible long before that incident. Also he was really no better or worse after returning so I don’t see it as having played much of a part in his stat line

John Stamos
9 years ago
Reply to  Jon

9 years ago
Reply to  Jon

Nobody knows how long his son was sick for before passing away. In all likelihood, he was probably sick for some time.

Not making excuses, as I’m actually not a Segura guy at all, but I don’t think you can draw a line like you have so easily.

9 years ago
Reply to  Johnny

You hit on one big flaw with Sabermetrics…it doesn’t factor in outside influences…he had to be effected by the lose of his child…