After delivering mixed results in his first season with the Philadelphia Phillies, infielder Jean Segura faces numerous questions going forward.
This time last year, we were all still giddy about how the Philadelphia Phillies had basically stolen all-star shortstop Jean Segura from the Seattle Mariners while simultaneously getting themselves out from under the dead weight of J.P. Crawford.
Really, what wasn’t there to like? Segura was coming off his third straight season of hitting .300, and he seemed like a perfect addition to balance out the Phillies’ revamped lineup.
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How’s that working out?
Ok, it’s not totally awful. But while Segura has not been a bust, nor has Crawford looked so good that the Phillies are kicking themselves for trading him, the Segura situation isn’t exciting any Phillies fans at this point.
Segura was actually fine with the bat in 2019, as he essentially put up his usual numbers across the board, though his .280 batting average fell short of what we had been sold. As the #2 hitter in the order he was effective, and he actually had some good production out of the #5 slot on the occasions that Gabe Kapler put him there. But he also batted leadoff or third in double-digit games, and had much less success in those spots, a case of Kapler out-thinking himself.
Then there was his defense.
Segura made a number of excellent plays at short over the course of the year, but he proved too inconsistent, going on to lead the National League with 20 errors. It’s no wonder that the Phillies jumped at the chance to sign shortstop Didi Gregorius this offseason, moving Segura off the position.
This is where the uncertainty surrounding Segura’s future as a Phillie comes in.
Logic says that Segura will move to the less demanding position of second base, where he has some MLB experience, though not since 2016. Scott Kingery, meanwhile, looks destined to shift over to third base for the time being, as he hopefully keeps the hot corner…warm, I guess, for Alec Bohm.
It’s a situation that reminds me a lot of what the Phillies dealt with nearly 20 years ago when Chase Utley was on his way up.
Utley was blocked at second base by Placido Polanco. That didn’t seem to be much of an issue, though, because Polanco could play a competent third base if he had to move because of Utley. But third was tied up by David Bell and his bloated contract. It’s a situation that went on for far too long, and it needlessly delayed Utley’s full-time arrival in the bigs. Maybe it even cost him a chance at the Hall of Fame, but that’s a discussion for another day.
I’m not saying that Alec Bohm is going to be Chase Utley. And, heck, maybe there’s even a way to circumvent this if the Phillies move Kingery (yet again) to the outfield when Bohm is ready for the show. But that would just be delaying the inevitable. Kingery really needs to settle in full-time at second base one of these years. The Phillies aren’t paying him to be a super-utility player.
So what does that mean for Segura?
First off, we should all be pulling for him to be as productive as possible this season. Not only would it help the Phillies on the field, but they might gain some leverage for possibly trading him, whether in-season or after the year. Of course, this is dependent on Bohm forcing his way into the discussion, as well as someone like Adam Haseley taking the center field job and running with it, leaving only second base as an option for Kingery.
Then again, the Phillies might even retain Segura while shifting Kingery all over the diamond in that scenario, which would really be crazy. Again, I’m getting ahead of myself.
To be clear, there is no urgent need to trade Segura at this moment, as this is just a potential situation that could come to fruition this year. And we probably wouldn’t even be entertaining this notion if Segura hadn’t had a few “lack of hustle” moments in 2019, most notably on the pop-up that led to Andrew McCutchen‘s season-ending injury.
If this sounds like a lot of things to hold against a lifetime .286 hitter, it is. But Segura is here right now, and he stands to have a pretty solid season if he can eliminate the mental lapses in his game and re-adjust well enough to second base for the Phillies to keep him there this year.
Segura should be able to beat the 12 home runs that he hit last year to end with about 15 in 2020, a number that would be the second-best of his career. Also, depending on where he hits in the Phillies’ improved lineup, he stands to either be in line to score a bunch of runs or have a bounty of RBI opportunities. When you add up his runs plus RBI at the end of the year, expect about 150 of them, although whether the split will be 75/75 or skewed more toward one category is anybody’s guess at this point.
Finally, I think that Segura can hit at least .290 this year, bringing up his average from last season after going through an adjustment period in a new city. Even though he’s not a top-tier player, he can be a big help to get the Phillies where they want to go this year.
Now it’s up to Jean Segura to show that he wants to play in Philadelphia and to back it up on the field. Phillies fans don’t really have an attachment to him at this point, but 2020 offers him a second chance to make himself part of this team’s future beyond this season.