The Dodgers May Have Found the Next Justin Turner

Over the past few seasons, there seems to have been an uptick in power breakouts for hitters. J.D. Martinez, Jose Altuve, and Daniel Murphy are examples of guys who dramatically increased their power output seemingly out of nowhere. One of the most notable cases is Justin Turner, who transformed himself from a mediocre utility player with the Mets into an elite third baseman with the Dodgers. The Dodgers were rewarded for identifying a player with untapped potential and extracting that potential. Today I’m here to tell you that they’ve done it again, with Rob Segedin.

All right, a little background first. Rob Segedin was drafted in the third round by the Yankees back in 2010, and was traded to the Dodgers last year for pitching prospect Tyler Olson and KATOH star Ronald Torreyes. Despite having a pretty decent track record in the minors, he debuted in the majors just this past season and has never received much fanfare, even from the statistical community (the last article he was mention in on was a prospect report written back in 2012). Part of this is probably due to the fact that he’s usually been old for his level and never really hit for much power. The slew of injuries didn’t help, either.

Last year, however, all that changed. Well, the power and the health changed; he was still relatively old. Over 424 plate appearances in Triple-A last year, Segedin slashed .319/.392/.598 with 21 homers and a .279 ISO. That’s really good! The year before, his ISO was .136. Now, Segedin did move from Scranton to the PCL, which is significantly more hitter-friendly. But still, it’s hard not to be impressed with those numbers. And looking at his spray charts, the difference is stark (via MLB Farm).

Basically every home run Segedin hit in 2015 was pulled far left. In 2016 there’s a lot more action to center-left, and even some to the opposite field. And while, having looked over some footage, there doesn’t appear to be any obvious change to his swing, there’s another possible explanation for the sudden improvement. Segedin largely credits it to more consistent playing time after moving to the Dodgers organization – “It was a little frustrating for me last year to not be an everyday player and not get those everyday at-bats,” Segedin said. “I think playing for another organization was better for my career.” (Idec, Keith. “Baseball: Old Tappan’s Rob Segedin at Home in Dodger’s Organization.” The Record, 14 July 2016. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.)

As mentioned earlier, Segedin had his big-league debut last year, so we have some MLB data to work with. And I’m gonna be honest. It doesn’t look great. Not on the surface, at least. In 83 PA, he slashed .233/.301/.370, good for an 83 wRC+. The great power numbers he had in Triple-A didn’t seem to translate, as he posted a mediocre .137 ISO. So yeah, that’s not very encouraging.

But there’s reason for optimism! For one, despite the low ISO, his exit velocity was pretty good. Rob Segedin’s average EV last year was 91.6 MPH, which is the same as Carlos Santana and Evan Longoria, and puts him higher on the list than Edwin Encarnacion. Segedin’s problem was less about hitting the ball hard, and more about putting the ball in the air: his average launch angle was 8.6 and his ground-ball rate was 52.8%. Which is a major problem (it’s hard to hit for power when you hit everything on the ground), but it may not be as bad as it seems. For one, it was only 83 plate appearances, and though GB% stabilizes pretty quickly, there’s still a good bit of noise in that sample. Also, remember what Segedin said about inconsistent playing time hurting his performance? Well in 18 of his 83 plate appearances, he came to the plate as a pinch-hitter. In those 18 PA he hit a whopping 24 wRC+ , as opposed to a 99 wRC+ when playing as a regular. I mean, I know that’s a ridiculously small sample, but it fits the narrative, so here we are. For what it’s worth, he’s batting .444/.500/.944 with 2 home runs in 20 PA this spring.

It’s kinda hard for me to look at Segedin’s current situation and not be reminded of Justin Turner. That said, he’s probably gonna strike out a bit more than Turner did. And he might struggle to find playing time in a crowded Dodgers infield. So there probably isn’t quite as much upside. But all the signs of a Rob Segedin breakout are there. All he needs is the opportunity.

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Jim Melichar

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