Going into Saturday, Segura had the second-highest batting average in the American League, an astronomical (and largely unknown) .338. Sure, it might be easy to discount that number because he has only played in 68 of the Mariners’ 98 games, having missed time with an ankle injury in early June, but he has enough at-bats to qualify for the leaderboard.
The Mariners acquired Segura from the Diamondbacks during the offseason of 2016 as part of a trade that got most of the attention for the inclusion of pitcher Taijuan Walker. Most felt, at the time, that Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto was selling low on Walker and buying high on Segura (the cornerstones of each side) and while it wasn’t a terrible move for Seattle, the club didn’t extract the price it could have. However, the Mariners needed a shortstop, and Segura offered the offensive potential that few other available options did at the time.
It has worked out fairly well for Seattle, all things considered. With the mediocrity of every team in the American League West not based in Houston, the Mariners have bounced around from fifth place to second, where they sat going into their game Saturday. Segura’s batting (and slugging) has him near the top of the league for shortstops, as well as on his team. The Mariners haven’t pulled away from the rest of the division for second place but they’re still in a better position than the Texas Rangers or Los Angeles Angels.
Is Segura’s hitting sustainable? Segura led the National League in hits in 2016 with the Diamondbacks (203), and finished with a .319 average, a significant accomplishment for a hitter. Not only that, but Segura has improved on his previous career highs after moving to a home park infamous for its offense-depressing capabilities. While there are no real sabermetric breakdowns that fully explain why he’s displaying an 80-grade hit tool, there are a few human reasons. First, he’s in his age-27 season, the year that on average most baseball players are in their prime. Segura showed this kind of power and hitting in his first full season with Milwaukee in 2013, and these past two seasons are showing that it’s not a fluke.
His down years, 2014 and 2015, have a more serious explanation than simply the ups and downs of baseball. In July of 2014, Segura’s young son passed away in the Dominican Republic, a tragedy which understandably affected the young shortstop greatly. The Seattle Times profiled Segura this season, and in the piece Segura discusses how his baseball playing was affected by his grief — and how his connections within baseball helped him heal, including one with one of his current Mariners teammates.
Segura always has had the talent to be a consistent .300 hitter, and while his .462 slugging percentage includes only six home runs in 2017 (likely partially thanks to pitcher-friendly Safeco Field), doubles are still quite the offensive contribution. Seattle signed Segura to a five-year, $70 million dollar contract extension only five days after he was placed on the DL, indicating that trade-happy Jerry Dipoto is just fine with making Segura a cornerstone to rebuild the Mariners around.
By Kate Morrison