Welcome to Week 2 of my 2014 MLB Season Preview Series! Needing to carefully word my dissertation thesis, yesterday's look back on the train wreck also known as the 2013 Miami Marlins took on a somewhat lighter tone than usual. However, with the labeling of my exploration of counter-discursive nineteenth-century Cuban texts now complete, it's time to plow on with all matters NL. The Milwaukee Brewers are on the clock today, as I focus on one of 2013's breakout performers, at least during the first half of the season anyway; base running extraordinaire, Jean Segura.
I'll get my bragging out of the way first. On April 11th last year, I picked up Jean Segura in my 14 team rotisserie fantasy league, eventually romping to the title in such a dominant manner that I can only assume the Karma Gods will smite my team down by early May this upcoming season. Not that I can say I knew what I'd be getting back then; with his ADP of 228.4, Segura was a speculative add - a player off to a hot start filling in for one of my injured middle infielders. Little did I know, I had picked up the eventual no. 1 SS per ESPN's player rater for the 2013 season. Of course, fantasy baseball often ascribes value to players that are worth far less to their teams in reality, and vice versa. But even if Segura's outrageous fantasy value wasn't totally indicative of his on-field production for Milwaukee, it shouldn't diminish what was still an outstanding season for the young Dominican. Aged 23, and in his first full season as a Brewer, Segura posted a .294/.329/.423 slash line over 623 PAs, demonstrating surprising power (12 HRs) to complement his signature speed (44 SBs). And while his final stats were certainly more than any sane Brewers fan would have predicted before the season, they were still somewhat of a disappointment come season's end.
That's because Segura's performance simply fell off a cliff during the second half. Prior to the All-Star game - to which he was deservedly voted to - Segura owned a 325/.363/.487 slash line, including 11 HRs and 8 triples. With a wRC+ of 135, the Milwaukee shortstop also topped the NL in both hits (127) and stolen bases (27). From that point on however, he, well... posted the same OBP as Juan Francisco. After the break, Segura hit just .241/.268/.315, adding only 1 HR to his pre-break tally while also seeing his steal success rate plummet (27SB/5CS pre-break; 17/8 after). His wRC+ also plunged to merely 57, a mark far below the average for NL shortstops;
To what then, can we attribute such a precipitous drop-off in production? Quite probably, simple fatigue. After getting significant run in the second half of the 2012 season for Milwaukee after being the prize return in the Zack Greinke trade, Segura played - and dominated - winter ball back home in the Dominican Republic, before then accruing 620+ PAs last year. By then end of 2013 Segura's power had all but disappeared accompanying the vanishing of his plate discipline, and weirdly, his speed - in addition to his lessened steal success rate, Segura was unable to leg out half as many infield hits despite hitting more ground balls (his IFH% fell from 16.2% down to 7.6%). Throw in the re-appearance of a nagging hamstring injury in September, and all the evidence points to Segura being run-down. Was it all that surprising then, to see the young star flame out?
By virtue of his dramatic first-half ascension, we tend to forget that 2013 was, aged just 23, Segura's first full season in the majors. Aided by an unsustainable BABIP and power surge, Segura's first half stats were unrealistically inflated to an extent that exaggerated his talent. His post-break line too, was unreliably skewed - just in the opposite direction - speaking more to his fatigue than simple regression. After such a Jekyll and Hyde performance in 2013, this season should hopefully bring a more consistent Jean Segura. Alongside the restored Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee's climb back to relevancy will sit largely on their young shortstop's shoulders, who - a year wiser and aided by an offseason of rest - seems set to bounce back from his second half slip in a big way.
You certainly won't be picking him 228th overall again anyway.