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February 1, 2016

Transaction Analysis

Segura-phobia

by Rian Watt, Ryan Romano, Christopher Crawford, Adam McInturff and Bret Sayre


IN THIS ISSUE

National League

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired SS-R Jean Segura and RHP Tyler Wagner from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for IF-R Aaron Hill, RHP Chase Anderson, and SS-L Isan Diaz. [1/30]

Jean Segura is the type of player who, 10 years ago, and but for an unspoken convention which (usually) limits the term to white American players, might have been called “scrappy.” That’s what we used to call players who put up a .285 on-base percentage over the course of 1,100 consecutive plate appearances—as Segura has done, the last two years—and periodically did things with the glove that made you sit up and say “Wow!” Nowadays, we mostly call those players “bad.”

But it’s not entirely evident to me that Segura is, in fact, bad. Sure, that OBP is, clearly, bad. And it would be nice if he managed to hit more than six home runs next year, thus clearing his high-water mark for the past two seasons. But consider this: If Segura manages to raise his OBP a mere 10 points—to somewhere just shy of .300—and simultaneously maintain the level of defensive excellence FRAA believes he has lately achieved, then PECOTA thinks he’ll be worth 10.3 WARP to the Diamondbacks in the three seasons between now and his free agency, in 2019.

I’m not convinced that’s going to happen, at least in the way PECOTA thinks it will. For one thing, despite posting an OBP in the .320s during the 2012 and 2013 campaigns, Segura hasn’t sniffed the .300 mark since, and the change has been persistent enough that, absent a big skills or approach change, the best bet is to assume it’ll stay in place. (This could, of course, be why the Diamondbacks acquired him.) For another, FRAA is definitely more bullish on Segura’s defensive abilities than other projection systems out there, and it seems silly to assume the 90th-percentile projection will be the one that’s actualized.

But even if Segura doesn’t attain the semi-lofty heights PECOTA sees in his future, a performance even half of which is projected (say, at about 1.5 WARP a year) is a perfectly reasonable thing to expect from a shortstop, and almost certainly better than what the Diamondbacks would have gotten out of Nick Ahmed, whose upside is probably right around where Segura’s floor lies. Ahmed will be a competent backup in 2016, if he’s not traded for parts, and help contribute to what should be a very intriguing Diamondbacks roster going forward.

Something worth noting about Segura: Over the past three years, his ability to hit pitches outside the zone has trended down (75 percent, 73 percent, 70 percent) just as his propensity to swing at those pitches has trended up (34 percent, 34 percent, 39 percent). If he can return to career norms in both categories, the .295-ish OBP he needs to remain a competent regular, given his defensive talents, starts looking fairly attainable. So keep a sharp eye out for spring stories about swing changes or pitch recognition: They’re key to Segura’s future, as too is his ability to stay well above average in the field. —Rian Watt

In Wagner, the Diamondbacks acquire a nearly ready big-league contributor, albeit one who likely fits best only as a fifth starter or long reliever. Wagner debuted late in the 2015 season for the Brewers, and got roughed up over three starts in which he lasted a total of 13 innings. More important was the bulk of his work last season at Double-A Biloxi, where he posted very similar strikeout, walk, and WHIP numbers to his breakout 2014 in Brevard County (FSL). Wagner’s frame and stuff seem more valuable if he can remain a starter, as he doesn’t project to generate lots of swings and misses—especially on his secondary pitches. However, he did close games in college at Utah, where he’d occasionally touch the mid-90s with his fastball in shorter stints.

Wagner possesses the ‘eye test’ physicality for an innings-logging back-end starter, and accordingly, he’s thrown over 300 innings the past two years between High-A, Double-A, and Milwaukee. For a physical comparison, Wagner holds a 6-3/195 frame similarly to Drew Hutchison, who is also listed at the exact same height and weight. Wagner repeats his delivery enough to throw basic strikes, but some oddities to his arm action both in the back and front of his delivery pull him off the mound and limit his command within the zone at times. Wagner pitches off his fastball, alternating between a heavy sinker in the low 90s and a short cutter he throws with a lot of downhill angle. His primary secondary pitch is a changeup—not a breaking ball—and it’s at least an average pitch that plays well off his fastball when he is able to consistently get arm-side fade to right-handed hitters. He throws a slurvy three-quarters breaking ball in the 75-80 mph range; his short, wrapped arm path in the back of his delivery makes it especially difficult for him to spin a breaking pitch. Wagner’s breaking ball is about a 45-grade offering at best, but he is able to cast slower, rolling slurves into the zone for strikes in a starter’s arsenal.

He seems like the type of starting pitcher who will fill the zone with a fringy-to-average mix of stuff, but do so consistently and durably thanks to a strong frame. Wagner has maintained strong groundball percentages consistently throughout his career, and it is no surprise his ability to limit walks and keep the ball on the ground make him more attractive to teams in homer-happy environments like Arizona. —Adam McInturff

Fantasy Impact

Jean Segura

Given that this is the Diamondbacks after all, there's a reasonable chance that despite Segura's .285 OBP over his last 1,141 plate appearances, he could hit second in the lineup between A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt. This would obviously be a boon for a number of reasons, but for the purposes of the arrow here, let's assume Arizona acts rationally (I know, I know) and hits him at the bottom of the lineup. The drop in value is small, but Milwaukee was already an excellent place to hit and there is more competition for playing time in Arizona throughout the infield.

Nick Ahmed/Chris Owings/Jake Lamb

Someone is going to lose playing to Segura, and it's not going to be Goldschmidt. Most likely, they will take the defense they can get at shortstop and use Ahmed as a utility man—of course, that plan will blow up if Chris Owings is very bad again or if Jake Lamb gets hurt again. Either way, if you're counting on any of these in your mixed league, it's probably time to pump the brakes. —Bret Sayre

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired IF-R Aaron Hill, RHP Chase Anderson, and SS-L Isan Diaz from the Diamondbacks in exchange for SS-R Jean Segura and RHP Tyler Wagner. [1/30]

Now that the Brewers have finally embraced rebuilding, they’ve begun to replenish their long-dry farm system by dealing away major-league veterans. Unlike Francisco Rodriguez and Adam Lind before him, though, Jean Segura brought back some players who can contribute immediately. Anderson and Hill carry different skill sets, but each can help the club’s long-term cause in his own way.

After an unheralded minor-league career—in which BP never named him a top Arizona prospect—Anderson joined the team’s rotation in May of 2014. He’s pitched 267.0 innings since then, with a mediocre 103 DRA- and 108 cFIP. That kind of output won’t win any awards, but Milwaukee would certainly accept a satisfactory starter who could replace Matt Garza and/or fill in for an inexperienced youngster. With two years left until he reaches arbitration, Anderson should become a dependable mainstay in the rotation.

Anderson has a bit of upside as well. He already possesses a phenomenal changeup, with deadly horizontal and vertical movement that has left hitters guessing. The Brewers won’t compete for at least a few more years, giving him some flexibility to continue developing and tinkering. If Anderson can perfect his four-seam/sinker mix and improve his command of the curveball (which has gone for strikes only 55.9 percent of the time in the majors), he could make a name for himself.

Of course, the odds of that happening are pretty slim. At age 28, most pitchers see their stock stagnate or fall, not rise. From here on out, Anderson’s best-case scenario is 25-30 solid starts a year, anchoring the middle/back of the rotation. Still, it’s difficult to ignore that potential. As he takes the hill over the next few seasons, Anderson—like many of his teammates—will give Brewers fans something to dream on for the future.

Whereas Anderson’s best days could be in front of him, Hill seems to have passed his prime. After a 6.8-WARP explosion in 2012, Hill signed a contract extension that would keep him in Arizona through 2016. In 1,256 plate appearances since then, he’s earned a meager 2.2 wins, including just decimals across the past two campaigns. The Diamondbacks dumped him off on the Brewers to clear up payroll; he likely won’t amount to anything in the coming season.

With that said, likely and definitely are two very different things. As a rebuilding club that knows it’ll remain in the cellar for 2016, Milwaukee can afford to take a gamble on Hill. To see how this move could pay off, the Brewers need only look to their division rival, the Cubs. A few years ago when they were out of contention, Chicago brought in the likes of Scott Feldman and Jason Hammel—players who, like Hill, seemed to have nothing left in the tank. Improbably, Feldman and Hammel came back from the dead, allowing the North Siders to flip them at the trade deadline for a considerable profit.

The Brew Crew obviously shouldn’t predict that kind of turnaround from Hill, just as the vast majority of people who buy lottery tickets shouldn’t expect to hit the jackpot. Still, you can’t win if you don’t play the game, and the Brewers have no reason not to take part in this contest. Along with fellow newcomer Jonathan Villar and holdover Scooter Gennett, Hill will receive a fair amount of starts in the middle infield this season. If he makes the most of his appearances and Milwaukee trades him in July, that’s just icing on the Anderson/Diaz cake.

Any time a team gives up a relative stalwart such as Segura, it will hurt. Even with his deteriorating bat, his elite glove has made him a reliably above-average shortstop. If he had stayed put, though, he probably would have departed via free agency before the Brewers rose to contention. This way, the team gets a middle-of-the-rotation starter and a potential trade chip, both of whom could contribute to the next Milwaukee playoff run. —Ryan Romano

Diaz was the MVP of the Pioneer league in 2015, and showed more offensive potential than even his biggest supporters/family members could have imagined. There’s always been plus power potential from his quality bat speed and leverage, but the swing that was shown in batting practice finally showed up in games. He’s a selective hitter who draws walks and waits for his pitch, and although that selectivity also leads to plenty of strikeouts there’s enough feel for hitting to project at least a fringe-average hit tool.

There’s no question Diaz has the offensive profile to be a regular up the middle. The same cannot be said defensively. He’s a below-average runner with a below-average arm, so the Diamondbacks are really kidding themselves by having him play shortstop. He should be able to play second base, and if he maxes out, the bat will play there just fine. Because of the swing and miss and below-average defensive profile, he projects best as an offense-first utility player, but if he hits anywhere close to what he did in the Pioneer League, he’ll hop, skip, and jump up lists next year. —Christopher Crawford

Fantasy Impact

Chase Anderson

There's nothing terribly exciting about Anderson from a fantasy sense, but pitchers who have rotation spots are much better investments than ones who don't—and given the Brewers' dire rotation, it feels inevitable that Anderson just locked one up for at least all of 2016 (and possibly 2017 as well). The park will continue to keep him from being a shallow mixed league option, and the lack of wins will probably knock him down even further towards the very deep mixed and mono leagues.

Aaron Hill

Everyone loves a good redemption story, and the former Diamondback is now out in search of one. After being strangely benched in early 2015, Hill finally finds himself in an organization likely to give him a healthy dose of playing time, and even bat him somewhat prominently in the lineup. With Miller Park as his back, Hill goes from an endgame NL-only player to someone you can actually take a flier on in mixed leagues. He may be toast, but at least we'll all get to find out together now.

Orlando Arcia

The big winner on the surface of this deal in Arcia, though it was unlikely the Brewers would continue to play both Segura and Scooter Gennett ahead of him if he got off to a good start in 2016. This cements that call up though, and even though Arcia is much more impactful of a player in real life than fantasy, a chance is a chance. And Arcia has the speed to be able to bank some of that expected value relatively easily and quickly.

Zach Davies

Oh, like you were going to draft him anyway. —Bret Sayre



Rian Watt is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rian's other articles. You can contact Rian by clicking here
Christopher Crawford is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christopher's other articles. You can contact Christopher by clicking here
Adam McInturff is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Adam's other articles. You can contact Adam by clicking here
Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here

Related Content:  Jean Segura,  Diamondbacks,  Brewers,  Aaron Hill,  Isan Diaz

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