Jean Segura: Sell High or… Buy High?

While a trendy sleeper pick in 2013, Jean Segura still slipped well into the double-digit rounds on draft day. Suddenly the top fantasy shortstop through six weeks, owners who passed are annoyed and owners who took the plunge in dynasty formats are already readying the 15-year franchise tender. Apparently the Brewers want to keep him around for a while, too, as they have reportedly offered the young shortstop a multi-year deal even though he isn’t arbitration eligible until 2016. What does this start mean for you, though?

You don’t need me to tell you Segura’s .393 BABIP isn’t going to stay there. He’s bound to slip a bit, although he might not fall as far if you just blindly assume league average. He has historically put up high BABIPs at all stops in the minors and his 2013 xBABIP is a surprisingly high 0.376. That’s buoyed by a scorching 21% LD% and the fact nearly a quarter of his grounders are turning into infield hits (it’s nice to have wheels). There’s no reason to believe he’ll be getting on base at less than a .330 clip going forward (and that builds in some regression in IFH%).

Speaking of wheels, he’s swiped 13 bags already this season, putting him on pace to end up in the mid-50’s if we extrapolate to a roughly 600 PA season. Even if he only drove in 40 with a handful of homers, the steals give him extreme value as a SS or MI slot. He’s only been caught twice in 2013 and is 20-for-23 in his big league career. With a success rate like that, Segura should be seeing plenty of green lights going forward (if he’s not getting the left shoulder pat, right elbow rub right now). Seeing the 50-60 mark is very possible.

The real question is whether the newfound power is legit. Segura now has seven home runs this year after only hitting 24 in his previous five professional seasons. He’s making Matt Kemp look like that kid your Little League just had to bat every game. His ISO is .236. To put that ridiculousness into perspective, his highest career ISO (minimum 100 plate appearances) coming into 2013 was .167. In 2009. In A-ball.

This season Segura’s flyball/home run average distance is a whopping 299 feet, sandwiching him between Pablo Sandoval and Edwin Encarnacion. How’s that for power company when you stand at only 1.077 Altuves? Unfortunately, Segura didn’t have enough plate appearances for me to pull his 2012 numbers, but we can surmise it was lower (much lower) given his HR/FB% has jumped to 18% from the slightly smaller mark of… 0%.

Interestingly, until last night, each of Segura’s homeruns went to the opposite field. Unfortunately, five of them rated as “just enough” on the ESPN Home Run Tracker so his newfound love of taters doesn’t involve light tower power. Even with the surprisingly sexy batted ball distance numbers, there’s not a lot of evidence Segura can keep up the torrid home run pace of the early season. Some of those will likely turn into doubles and triples, so those in OPS leagues won’t cry too much, but you’re going to have to keep waiting if you are penciling in 25 homers from the diminutive shortstop.

In the plate discipline department, there is nothing exciting signaling impending doom, but also nothing to imply Segura has developed a transformed approach at the plate. One marker with significant changes over 2012 is his O-Contact% which is down from 76% to 68%. However, his O-Swing% is also down from 37% to 31% so maybe the drop in the former is merely a function of him doing a better job laying off balls near the strike zone. If that’s the case, it’s a net positive as it shows increasing discipline as a major league hitter, but, even assuming I’m stretching, Jean Segura appears to be the same Jean Segura we’ve seen for a few years now.

So what should you do? As much as he’s a great story, it’s highly unlikely (hedge!) he finishes the season top 10 overall in fantasy leagues. Remember, he came into the season as the 17th ranked shortstop among a group of Rotographs writers and has shown power that is so far above and beyond his minor league rates it borders on ridiculous. However, there is no denying has stock has also increased dramatically, so you’re probably not going to want to move him for Paul Konerko either.

In one of my redrafts where I could stand to upgrade on the solid-but-injury-prone Jed Lowrie with some speed, I almost feel like turning the tables, trying to find an owner who looks at the runt and thinks “lucky flash in the pan” while I send him Kris Medlen (aside: his BB% jump and K% fall terrify me). On the flip side, in keeper/dynasty leagues, where Segura has even more value thanks to his age/position, he might be more of a sell high candidate. If you’re sitting on Ben Zobrist and and you find a rebuilding owner who needs to replace Jimmy Rollins declining pop, maybe you could get a Jason Heyward or Jose Bautista right now.

Either way, you can probably make a legitimate argument on either side in all types of leagues — Segura is in that purgatorial position where he’s not quite this good, but there’s still a lot to like.

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There are few things Colin loves more in life than a pitcher with a single-digit BB%. Find him on Twitter @soxczar.

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Pat G
Pat G

extra who in the first paragraph, the third paragraph (steals) says if he drove in 40, which i assume should be “if he swept 40” or something to that effect