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Is Jean Segura a New Jose Reyes?

Last week, I wrote about Hanley Ramirez in this space. Because it was a look at Ramirez’ success over the past eight years, the natural comparison to another top shortstop in that span, Jose Reyes, came up.

But it was an interesting question in the comments that I wanted to dive into today: Is Jean Segura going to be a Jose Reyes-type fantasy value for the next decade?

No two players are ever identical, so that’s the kind of question that is very difficult to answer effectively. However, we have some data that we can look at to try and compare the two, and it bears out striking resemblances.

The first place I wanted to look was their development time. Because Segura has less than a full season of performance to analyze at the Major League level, we can get a better idea of their similarities and differences by going back further.

In 1999, the Mets signed Reyes as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic, and he would debut in the minors the following season. Segura, meanwhile, was signed in 2007 by the Angels out of the Dominican Republic and also debuted in the minors the following season. The key difference, then, was that Reyes was signed at a slightly younger age and made his professional debut at 17 (and his MLB debut at 20), while Segura debuted as a pro at 18 and was in the MLB at age 22.

That might not seem like a big difference, and you’ll see from the playing time numbers below that it wasn’t in the minors, but it does have an impact later in how we may view their early-career numbers.

Comparison: Seguar & Reyes, Minor Leagues
Pro Debut Age @ Debut Yrs G PA HR SB K:BB OPS Pros Rank AAA PA
Segura 2008 18 5 399 1755 26 139 210:126 0.807 57 (11), 55(12) 19
Per 600 PA           8.9 47.5 72:43
Reyes 2000 17 5 343 1441 13 129 217:101 0.763 34 (02), 3 (03) 181
Per 600 PA           5.4 53.7 90:42

As I mentioned in the preamble, these are pretty tight comparables. Segura showed a bit more pop in the minors, Reyes showed a bit more speed and Segura perhaps gets the edge due to a slightly more refined approach. However, Segura’s numbers were generally done at a higher age and without facing much Triple-A action.

It’s tough to declare a “winner” there, and you’d probably be excited about either player being in your farm system. Reyes was slightly more vaunted a prospect, but perhaps the difference came on the defensive side (we only care about offense for this exercise).

Let’s look to their early-career performance now.

Comparison: Segura & Reyes, First Two Partial Seasons & Age 21-22 Seasons
MLB Debut Age @ Debut G PA HR SB K:BB OPS BABIP LD/GB/FB O-Swing% Contact%
Segura 2012 22 137 563 11 34 71:30 0.789 0.336 18.1/60.3/21.7 35.8 85.4
Per 600PA   11.7 36.2 76:32
Reyes 2003 20 122 521 7 32 67:18 0.714 0.314 20.4/46.2/33.4 21.1 84.1
Per 600PA         8.1 36.9 77:21
Reyes 2005-06 22-23 314 1343 26 124 159:80 0.761 0.308 20.2/46.2/33.5 25.6 86.7
Per 600PA         11.6 55.4 71:36

Again we see some remarkable similarities. And again, Segura has a slight power and approach edge while Reyes has a bit more speed and is putting these numbers up at a younger age.

The age factor becomes important here – if you are just looking at their first 500-plus plate appearances, Segura looks better. He has more power, a better strikeout-to-walk ratio and even a higher contact rate despite swinging at more balls out of the zone. His power perhaps looks a little fluky given the lack of balls in the air, but his fly ball distance has been really strong, making it somewhat less concerning.

However, age can be just as important a factor as service time in terms of development. If you instead look at Reyes’ age 22 and 23 seasons (the age Segura was last year and this year), Reyes outperforms Segura significantly. The power becomes a wash, the K:BB is nearly identical, Reyes’ contact rate is better and the stolen base difference becomes extreme. If you like ZIPS rest of season projections, they expect Segura to regress a bit over the second half of the season as well, which would make these differences even more extreme.

With that said, the comparison is certainly not absurd. Some of the numbers are exceptionally close, and the comparison is made easier by the similar development paths. It’s impossible to know for sure whether the slightly later start should make us less enthusiastic about Segura, or the fact that once Reyes had some time in the majors under his belt he improved quickly should make us more enthusiastic.

Through two partial seasons, his closest comparables based on age, speed, power and K:BB are Reyes, Barry Larkin and Julio Franco. That’s pretty good company, so even if he’s not a Reyes clone, he’s likely to be a fine (think top-five at the position) asset moving forward.