The only thing to change more than Jean Segura’s jersey over the last few years has been the fantasy community and their opinions on him. The disrespect for Segura has been widespread, and a change in perception is long overdue. Segura was a top fantasy asset all the way back in 2013, before struggling for a few years in the wake of a personal tragedy with his family. Even with his down years, Segura’s overall performance at the shortstop position is somewhat unmatched. Among qualified shortstops since 2016, Segura ranks first in stolen bases, second in runs scored, and fifth in batting average. That includes his two-season struggles from 2014-2015 when he slashed a disappointing .252/.285/.331. Segura is a better hitter than that, and he has proven so over his last two seasons. His style as a hitter is intriguing but productive.
Segura, by nature, takes an aggressive approach at the plate. His almost 50% swing rate from last year was at or above the league average for a sixth consecutive season. Some hitters are plagued by their swing-first mentalities, but Segura seems to benefit. He’s not just taking hacks to take hacks up there, though; Segura puts the ball in play often. By “often,” I mean almost as much as anyone in baseball. Segura put the ball in play more than 77% of the time last year (14th among qualified hitters). This means that, in his 125 games, he put pressure on the defense 438 times, and he was able to use his speedy legs to get on base.
Despite his lack of walks, Segura has maintained a very healthy on-base percentage the last two seasons. In 2017, his .349 OBP was 63rd best in the league and earned him a second straight season atop a powerful offense. Much of Segura’s on-base skills are a result of his batted-ball profile. His contact rate is elite at 85%, and he doesn’t try to do too much with the pitches he’s given. Straight back up the box or even to the opposite field tends to be Segura’s method of choice. Of the 144 qualified hitters last year, only David Freese hit more balls toward the center of the diamond. CENT% is an analytical way of looking at a player’s batted ball direction tendencies. Segura’s CENT% for 2017 was incredibly high at 42%. This up-the-middle approach, combined with Segura’s remarkable contact rate, allows him to consistently deliver a high average.
In addition to his increasing batting average since 2016, Segura has also seen a boost in his power production. Between 2015-2016, Segura hit .252 with 11 home runs in his 288 games. His last two years, one with the Diamondbacks and now with the Mariners, Segura hit .310 with 31 long balls and increased his OPS from .615 to .826. Segura surprisingly has a little bit of pop when he puts the ball in the air. The key word there being “when.” Segura is an extreme groundball hitter, which translates well to him using his speed to get on base, but it doesn’t generate great power numbers. His exit velocity is of 87.5 MPH on average last year ranks 89th of the 144 qualified hitters. This is nothing to get excited about, but when you consider he almost never pulls the ball and hits an unbelievable number of balls into the ground, he has a lot more natural power than someone like Elvis Andrus, who sells out for power to his pull-side regularly.
Overall, Segura stands out among the group of shortstops he is being drafted with. Judging by ADP and a sample size of each player’s 162-game averages for the last two years, Segura has more to offer than guys like Corey Seager, Elvis Andrus, Xander Bogaerts, and Javier Baez. In looking at the table below, we can see that Segura has the best batting average and stolen base numbers of the bunch. He lacks RBI production but clearly makes up for it with his premium lineup position and his ability to score a ton of runs. The Seattle offense stands to be even better in 2018 after already ranking top five in wRC+ among teams in 2017.
Segura’s safe skillset — and the fact that he is at the end of a draft tier — makes him an easy draft target for me for 2018. We can look forward to another year of elite stolen base production, a high batting average and some sneaky good power production. It’s about time the fantasy community gives the man some respect. Segura is a top-five shortstop in 2018. Book it.