The 2017 Seattle Mariners will feature many new faces. Among the most anticipated additions to the infield is shortstop Jean Segura. With a birthday coming up on March 17th, Segura will be twenty-seven on opening day, that mythical peak age for baseball players. He is coming off a career season with the Arizona Diamondbacks where he hit .319/.368/.499 with 20 HR, 64 RBI, 102 runs, and 33 stolen bases. The question for Mariners fans is whether he can match or even top that production in the Emerald City. Unfortunately, the answer is probably no, but that’s not to say there isn’t solid value in the player for whom the Mariners gave up Taijuan Walker, the once highly touted pitching prospect.
Which Jean Segura Will the Mariners Get?
In Segura’s first full season in the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers back in 2013, he showed promise with a slash line of .294/.329/.423. But he followed up his age twenty-three season with batting averages in the next two seasons of .249 and .257 respectively, while failing to get on base at even a .300 clip. In fact, Segura was so bad offensively in 2014 and 2015, he generated 0.0 and 0.3 WAR.. Last season he was an All-Star caliber, 5.0 WAR player. The player donning the Northwest Green is likely somewhere in the middle.
The four major player projections – Depth Charts, Steamer, Fans, and ZiPS – have Segura with WAR of 2.1, 2.2, 3.3, and 2.2, a range that would add roughly two to three wins over what Ketel Marte (-0.7 WAR in 119 games) and various backups contributed last season at short. Ask even the most casual fan at Safeco what two or three more wins would have accomplished last season.
The batting average and the on base percentage should fall some from the 2016 heights simply because his .353 BABIP is unsustainable. Look for that to creep back to around the .300 to .310 mark, resulting in a .270 to .280 BA and .310 to .320 OBP. Segura has always shown speed with 44, 20, 25, and 33 SB in his four major league seasons. Expect him to swipe thirty or so bags this year. However, it was the pop, the 20 HR, that was most surprising last season.
The Ballpark Factor
His HR/FB jumped from the low 5% range in 2014 and 2015 to 13.5% in 2016. Two things in particular jump out as some possible explanations for the increased power. He looked to pull the ball more and his hard contact rate was the highest of his career – 29.7%. And while Arizona is considered a hitters park while Seattle is considered a pitchers park, the dimensions to left – a righties pull groove – are almost identical. Chase Field is 330 feet down the third base line while Safeco Field is 331. So, perhaps the power will continue to develop. Fifteen HR seems possible.
Look for Segura to bat second, behind Leonys Martin, with either guy looking to run. The heart of the lineup – Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager – are as good as any three, four, five in baseball. And with two or three more wins coming from the shortstop position, the sixteen-year playoff drought may only last until October. Keep an eye on Segura as games start in Spring Training next week.