The Philadelphia Phillies were a completely different ball club December 3, 2018. That night, General Manager Matt Klentak would trade Phillies top prospect and future Gold Glover J.P. Crawford, along with Carlos Santana, to the Seattle Mariners for Juan Nicasio, James Pazos, and Jean Segura.
The impact of this trade still reverberates around MLB today, as Crawford has emerged as one of the game’s best defensive shortstops, as well as a solid bat for the upstart Mariners. Segura, meanwhile, is a 31-year-old converted second baseman on a bloated contract for a Phillies club already swamped with a top heavy payroll.
Segura is barely better than a league average hitter and he doesn’t seem like a flashy defender or major threat on the basepaths. Still, he manages to be one of the National League’s best second basemen.
Segura finished 2021 with an OPS of .784 and five defensive runs saved according to Baseball-Reference. Among National League second basemen (min. 80 games played at second base), only Jake Cronenworth had a higher OPS and as many DRS.
Of course, these two statistics aren’t the only measurements which demonstrate a player’s efficiency, but as the most basic offensive and defensive analytic, they tell a more complete story than older statistics like fielding percentage or batting average.
Not only was Segura above average on the field and batter’s box, but also, shockingly for a 220 lb. 31-year-old, on the base paths as well. Baseball-Reference uses Runs from Baserunning (Rbaser) to determine baserunner value.
It’s a somewhat crude stat based entirely around “base running events” like stolen bases, caught stealing, and 1st to 3rd on a single. Over a small sample size, analytics like this can be incredibly prone to misinterpreting small sample size data, but on a career-wide scale, with a larger sample size, they’re often more reliable.
That being said, Segura was worth two Rbaser in 2021, a solid, yet unremarkable, total. For his 10-year career however, Segura has been worth 21 Rbaser, which tracks well with the two runs Segura contributed via base running in 2021.
Even by more modern analytics, Segura’s base running is above average. Statcast measures his sprint speed at 27.3 ft/s, 57th percentile league wide.
Baseball Savant also prefers Segura’s defense to Baseball-Reference. They consider him 95th percentile league wide for all defenders, worth nine outs above average.
Using OAA as opposed to DRS, there is not one National League second baseman better than Segura in 2021 on both offense and defense. Only Tommy Edman of the St. Louis Cardinals was worth more as a defensive second baseman, but his OPS was .695, well below league average.
Having switched from shortstop to second base, Segura seems to have revitalized his career post age-30. From age-27 to age-29 Segura slashed .294/.337/.421 for an OPS+ of 104, -4 DRS, and -2 OAA in 1,816 plate appearances. Since switching to second base in 2020, Segura has slashed .283/.348/.432 for an OPS+ of 110, 7 DRS, and 14 OAA.
While all of these are minor incremental improvements, put together they create a player who could be All-Star caliber given a strong first half in 2022. If Segura can provide above-average offense out of the 2-hole and near-Gold Glove defense at second base like he did in 2021, the Phillies could be well on their way to breaking a decade long postseason drought.
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