Why Christian Yelich Could Be The 2015 Version Of Jean Segura

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

No one is going to argue that there isn’t upside in the Marlins’ Christian Yelich. He showed it on the field in his rookie campaign and many are expecting growth in his sophomore season. It makes sense, given the previous hype (prior to 2013 Baseball America had him ranked as the #15 prospect while MLB.com had him at #13), but could he follow in the footsteps of the Brewers’ Jean Segura? First, let’s compare their rookie seasons:

Player
PA
AVG
HR
RBI
Runs
SB
Christian Yelich (2014)660.2849549421
Jean Segura (2013)623.29412497444

The numbers are very similar, outside of Segura showing more stolen base ability. The thing is, as we dive into the numbers even further the similarities don’t end on the surface.

Like Segura, Yelich saw a significant drop in power from the first half to the second and simply may not profile to hit for much power. Just look at the numbers:

Player
1st Half HR
1st Half HR/FB
2nd Half HR
2nd Half HR/FB
Groundball Rate
Christian Yelich818.6%12.9%61.0%
Jean Segura1115.3%12.3%58.7%

Now keep in mind that Yelich plays in a significantly worse park for power hitters and the first half “surge” looks like a complete aberration.

The average looks even worse, as Yelich strikes out more (20.6%) than Segura (13.5%) and could see a similar drop in power. He does have the advantage of a greater line drive rate (21.2%) and he does have speed, but can he maintain a .356 BABIP?  It’s certainly not a given, and a regression there coupled with a loss in power could send his batting average spiraling into the .260 range.

You also have the added concern about where Yelich will hit in the batting order. Thanks to the addition of Dee Gordon, the leadoff spot appears to be out of the question. As it is, with a drop in average there would be concerns about his ability to score runs. Hitting second, where he could be asked to give himself up and move the runner over? The concerns grow even more.

It will also limit his stolen base potential, though in that regard he may never have had the upside of someone like Segura. As it is, his career high in the minors was “just” 32, and it’s possible that 25-30 is his ceiling right now. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that, but we shouldn’t go into the season expecting a potential league leader in the category.

While there’s going to be a lot of hype surrounding Yelich, fantasy owners need to take something out of the debacle that was Jean Segura in 2014. With a potential regression in both power (likely) and average, as well as the questions regarding his runs score and stolen bases, he simply is not a player to be overvalued.

Given the likely draft day cost, there’s no chance I own him in any format.

Source – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference

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14 comments

  1. Ted Striker says:

    Provocative title, but I’m not sure I see it. Yelich walks at twice the rate Segura does. Playing minor league ball, Yelich had eclipsed 10+ homers in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Segura had only done that in one season of minor league play prior to his 2013 breakout. Yelich is a slightly more disciplined hitter who swings at far fewer pitches outside the strike zone, but both make good contact overall. Segura gets caught stealing at a higher clip too (2014 was pretty dreadful on that front). I still like both to be solid contributors this year at their respective positions.

    • Impossibledream says:

      Agreed Ted, Yelich’s 10% walk rate is impressive. He might not be an exciting fantasy draft pick, but depending on when you draft him, you might find good production from him.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Obviously it’s not a perfect comparison, and yes Yelich’s walk rate is impressive. The problem is that I don’t see the power as being there, especially with the falloff in the second half and his home ballpark.

      Hitting second will also hurt him across the board, potentially limiting his SB and R opportunities.

      He is going to be a good player and there’s significant upside, but there’s a very good chance he’s overvalued for ’15 and could be a major disappointment.

    • MJ says:

      I was going to add the same in regards to the walk rates. Yelich is a much safer bet, especially in on base leagues. And I do believe he will grow into his power at some point. I see a better comparison being Markakis. That would seem to be Yelich’s upside potential.

      • Rotoprofessor says:

        Yelich does offer more speed than Markakis and in general has more upside. There’s just a lot of risk that he’s overvalued and doesn’t get there in ’15

  2. Mike says:

    I think you left out two important categories. OBP AND AVG. If you look at Segura 2013 pre break 325 avg 363 obp post break 241 avg 268 obp. That screams stay away. If you look at Yelich pre break 273 avg 353 obp post break 293 avg 373 obp. Those are nice improvements. Yes Yelich did only hit 1 Hr but he did have 18 doubles in 32 less AB post break. (Pre break he hit 12 doubles.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      It’s a fair point, but his BABIP as ballooned from .336 to .377 in the second half despite his line drive rate being fairly stagnant (20.6% to 21.9%)

  3. Zack says:

    Can’t you write a similar story for every sophomore player that had a good rookie season where current expectations are running high for the upcoming season?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      To an extent I would agree that sophomore players could easily be overvalued. Some are riskier than others, though

  4. Mike says:

    I was just wondering are you guys hiring?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      We are always willing to consider new writers. If you are interested e-mail me a sample and we will see if we can find a fit!

  5. Marky Mark says:

    I thought a pretty big chunk of Segura’s struggles last year were because of his 9-month-old son dying.

    Maybe looking at a guy’s stats while he’s going through the worst time in his life and calling it a “debacle” is a big harsh.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      That’s fair, though the comparisons of Segura’s 2013 falloff in the second half to Yelich’s is more the focus

    • Evan says:

      I think Segura’s personal tragedy could have been mentioned to help understand some of what he went through during the year, thus possibly affecting his statistics. However, on draft day people aren’t likely going to be looking through each person’s personal history and take a guess as to how much it affected their game. To call Segura’s precipitous drop from 2013 in 2014 a ‘debacle’ in terms of statistics and prestige is accurate. With what he went through, though, I would not totally write him off for 2015. He’ll probably end up somewhere in the middle of the previous two years.

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