Here are nine reasons Brewers fans should think of Jean Segura every time they’re feeling down this season:
9. His jersey
If I were fortunate enough to have a young son who loved the Brewers (right now I couldn’t be further away – I’m single and childless), he would own a No. 9 jersey, you can be sure of that. Segura has everything one should be looking for when identifying which jersey to invest in. He’s got the position, the youth and all the dreams that come with it. He also has the staying power — sure the Brewers traded away J.J. Hardy and Alcides Escobar in the recent past, but Hardy was dealt to open up a spot for Escobar, who was in turn dealt to add another crucial piece, in Zack Greinke, for a run at a World Series. Segura, on the other hand, IS a key piece, he’s a big part of the Brewers’ core.
Getting a jersey of a player who could easily be gone in a matter of months is never a smart play, but that doesn’t seem like a risk with him. For instance, an old roommate of mine owns a Francisco Cordero jersey, and the only people he can make fun of are the people who bought Derrick Turnbow jerseys. You need to invest in someone you are relatively confident will still be on the team in a few years, primarily a young, talented position player like Segura.
This last part of the equation is a matter of personal preference, but I say the best numbers for a baseball jersey are all the single digits, save No. 1, which is much more suited for basketball than baseball. Sorry, Corey.
8. Ryan Braun
It’s early, and there’s zero reason to panic. After all, he did hit a crucial two-run bomb (guess who was on base) in the come-from-behind win Sunday. But he has also whiffed in some big spots already this year, and has yet to really give off that “reason to pay the price of admission” sparkle we’re accustomed to seeing. He will, it’s just not there yet, and although the vast majority of Brewers fans will never stop supporting Braun, in that hypothetical jersey-buying situation I brought up with my hypothetical son, I can’t pretend the whole Biogenesis thing wouldn’t play some part in the decision to pull the No. 9 and not the No. 8 off the store rack.
7. The rest of the Brewers’ infield
Alex Gonzalez is fine wherever he’s playing defensively, but his bat mitigates anything he brings to a corner infield position with his glove. Yuni B is Yuni B. Rickie Weeks posted a minus-30 defensive runs saved in 2012. When Aramis Ramirez returns, Segura’s range will be more critical than ever. Corey Hart has shown some promise at first base, but he’s still played just 100 big league games at the position. Alas, Segura has quickly become the defensive anchor in the Brewers’ infield, and he’s not even truly elite by positional standards, but without him, the team’s pitching staff would be doomed.
6. His youth
It’s not necessarily just his youth, Norichika Aoki has a similar way about him, and he’s eight years Segura’s senior. But they both have that “really happy to be playing professional baseball” look, more often than not. There’s definitely something to be said for living in the moment in a way that only someone who hasn’t been around long enough to become jaded can pull off.
5. He’s a perfectionist in the field
He carries himself like he’s trying to go the entire season without making a single mistake, or letting a single runner from home to first get the best of him. On that bang-bang play in Tuesday’s game where he may or may not have gunned down Angel Pagan, his reaction to the safe call was a mixture of defiance, swagger and dismay, all rolled into one. He’ll make mistakes, but I love the fact that he doesn’t seem to think he’ll make any.
4. His position
Having a bad shortstop on your favorite team is the worst. One could argue that having a bad rotation, or bullpen is worse, but that’s a collection of guys. No one position can bring so much joy when things are good and so much frustration when things are bad. It’s not even just about the plays that should happen but don’t happen, it’s about the plays that you will just never get the chance to see if your shortstop has average to below average abilities in the field. Good shortstops get more opportunities to make spectacular defensive plays than plus defenders at any other position, so when that’s off the table as an option, like it was for Brewers fans in 2011, there’s an entire element that’s missing from watching games. Luckily, Segura is good for a couple “wow” plays (see below) every game, which keeps things interesting even when the pitcher at the time is self combusting.
3. This play
This is from last season, but I never get tired of watching it. You could drive a tank through the ground he covers getting to this ball.
2. His start to the 2013 season
As J.P. tweeted Tuesday, Segura is second among all shortstops with a wOBA of .445, behind only Jed Lowrie (.451). He also ranks third among shortstops in slugging percentage (.585) and is second behind only Brandon Crawford in WAR (0.7). Turning back to just the Brewers, it’s between Segura and Aoki for the early-season team-MVP honors, and nobody else is even close.
1. His potential
This goes hand in hand with his youth, but the fact is, we don’t really know what kind of a player he will be in two or three years. That’s the beauty of prospects, we get to play the “What if?” game.
In Keith Law’s write up on Segura when he ranked him as the 44th best prospect in baseball before the 2012 season, he said that “he’s a possible All-Star who should hit for average and add value on the bases.” So far, that seems like a pretty accurate evaluation. Law’s big “what if” in that evaluation that probably contributed a little to the ranking was whether or not Segura could stay healthy, since he had missed significant time in 2011 and in previous years. Before the 2011 season, Law had ranked Segura 35th on his annual prospects list, and said that he has a chance to be “a special bat.” You can let your imagination work with a phrase like that.
If Segura is going to develop a bit more power (really the biggest question at this point), his power numbers could follow a similar arc as Dustin Pedroia’s. Both players have compact swings and can rip the ball when they square it up. In Pedroia’s first full major league season, he slugged .442 with eight home runs in 581 plate appearances. The ZiPS and Steamer projection systems on FanGraphs project Segura to finish with 10 and six home runs respectively this season, and he’s a year younger (23) than Pedroia was in his first full season. Now you can say, “that’s absurd, don’t compare Segura’s potential to a guy who was an MVP candidate not too long ago,” but that’s the pleasure that prospects bring to the table. I can make a case that these up the middle, right-handed bats with similar physiques will have comparable offensive growth. Pedroia hit 17 home runs in 2008, and peaked with 21 home runs in 2011. So if Segura can match that down the road, his ability to hit for average, run the bases, and play good defense at an even more premium position than Pedroia, makes looking ahead quite the joy.
Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospects, ESPN.com; FanGraphs.com