Brewers 2014 positional preview: Shortstop
This is the seventh part in a nine-part series previewing the Milwaukee Brewers by position heading into Opening Day on March 31.
ON THE ROSTER
Jean Segura (.294, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 20 2B, 10 3B, 44 SB in 146 games in 2013)
Jeff Bianchi (.237, 1 HR, 25 HR, 8 2B, 4 SB in 100 games)
2013 IN REVIEW
The Milwaukee Brewers’ search for a franchise shortstop has ended, as Jean Segura emerged to make the All-Star Game in his first full season in the big leagues after making the jump from Double-A.
But Segura’s year didn’t come without challenges. The prize of the Zack Greinke trade wore down as the season went along and struggled in the second half of the season.
Segura hit .325 with 11 home runs, 36 home runs and 27 stolen bases before the All-Star Game, including posting a .354 batting average with eight home runs in April and May. He displayed an ability to hit to all fields, hit for power and beat out almost anything that was hit on the ground.
The 24-year-old saw his numbers decline as the season wore on, hitting just .241 with only one home run and 13 RBI in the second half. Segura’s batting average was .281 in July, .252 in August and .214 in 15 games in September. His power all but evaporated, as Segura didn’t hit a home run after June 21. A good portion of his hits in the second half were of the infield variety.
A hamstring injury prevented Segura from winning the National League stolen base title, as Mets utility man Eric Young Jr. passed him during the final weekend of the season. Not only did Segura miss nine games at the end of the season, but also he wasn’t running at his usual frequency due to the hamstring issue.
Defensively, Segura made 15 errors in 144 games. He displayed good range and had the fifth-best fielding percentage among National League shortstops at .978.
Bianchi started 17 games at shortstop in 2013, providing the Brewers with a solid backup at the position. He isn’t flashy in the field or a great hitter, but Bianchi is serviceable. Alex Gonzalez made two starts at the position before being designated for assignment.
After not playing winter ball, Segura says he’s feeling rested and ready to go after an offseason filled with workouts with his uncle, a former distance runner. The goal is simple: Don’t wear down like he did in 2013.
Speed doesn’t slump, and Segura certainly can fly. He led the National League with 44 infield hits last season and should come close to legging out the same number in 2014. But the Brewers need the Segura that was spraying the ball from gap to gap for extra-base hits. While not expected to be a power hitter, Segura should accumulate a good number of doubles and triples with his speed.
Segura will have to prove the second-half struggles were only due to wearing down and not a regression to the mean. The next step is becoming consistent and being better prepared to play a full season should help with that. He’s currently battling a shoulder injury that has cost him time this spring, but Segura is expected to be ready when the season begins Monday.
The Brewers have been rumored to be interested in locking Segura up to a long-term contract sooner rather than later, but it appears as if nothing is going to get done before Opening Day. He’s not focused on contract talks, instead leaving that up to his agent and the Brewers.
Bianchi is the only other player on the roster capable of playing shortstop. It will be interesting to see if manager Ron Roenicke monitors Segura’s playing time early in the year in an attempt to keep him fresh for the entirety of the season.
KEY TO SUCCESS
Segura staying healthy. While being consistent is important, the Brewers can’t afford to lose their shortstop for an extended period of time. The drop off from Segura to a potential replacement is a big one.
THEY SAID IT
"Everything he does is simple. He’s not going to get in big slumps. Me and ‘Seggy’ are two different kinds of swings. I have more movement. He uses his hands. He’s inside every time. He’s going to hit. He’s strong and he plays hard. This was a good decision for the Brewers organization to get a young shortstop who is going to be here for a long time." — Carlos Gomez on Segura
"My goal was to come here and be ready for the season. I feel stronger, I feel fresh and ready to go. At some point in the season you are going to hit struggles. I was doing good for the first three months of the season. It was a learning experience." — Segura
"In the long run it should really be good for him. He should definitely be fresher longer. Once he gets into his rhythm and everything starts falling into place, I think the confidence will be there. Last year, I don’t think it was just the physical but also the mental. I think that wore him down, too. Hopefully he gets in a groove here and the mental part will be about the positive instead of worrying about the negative." — Roenicke on Segura not playing winter ball
Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter