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SnakePit Round Table: The Arizona Diamondbacks and their middle-infield, part one

Bit of a log-jam here, with the arrival of Jean Segura to battle Nick Ahmed, Chris Owings and Phil Gosselin for shortstop and second-base. How do we see it all going down?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Did we give up too much to get rid of Aaron Hill?

Preston: I think we gave up about what could be expected. Wagner and Anderson come close to canceling each other out; true, Anderson has more big league experience, and performed at about an All-Star level for two months last year, but Wagner has always been the more highly-regarded prospect. He has experience pitching in the bullpen and is regarded as a ground ball machine. He also posted an RA/9 of 2.46 in high A in 2014, and 2.66 in AA last year, so he's great at run prevention. Isan Diaz might wind up being the best player involved in the trade, but he has yet to appear above Rookie League. Getting ~$5 million in savings for including him in the trade is probably about right.

soco: Sometimes to get rid of a Hill, you need to give up a mountain.

Makakilo: Good trade! In addition to the saved salary, it added Jean Segura. I like that addition because 1) Segura has offensive upside with a compelling story that it may happen , 2) the Diamondback performance at second base could be markedly improved, even if his upside is not achieved, and 3) alternatives to improve at second base, such as Howie Kendrick and Ian Desmond, would have cost a draft pick.

Xipooo: Nope. He was mostly clogging up movement from the minors and costing us money in the meantime. I liked Aaron a lot more than most people around here, but it was clearly time to move on.

Jim: Possibly, but if we left it much longer, we'd have more or less blown all hope of getting anything at all in return. Even if Segura is probably not likely to return to All-Star form, he does at least have some hope of potential upside, and that's more than even the most optimistic fan would expect from Hill. Maybe the change in scenery is just what Segura needs. After all, it was apparently a change in scenery that re-invigorated Hill on his arrival from Toronto, hitting .302 with 26 home-runs the next season. Here's to more of the same. But let's not sign Segura to a long-term contract, m'kay?

How hopeful are you Jean Segura will be better?

Preston: I'm pretty hopeful that Segura can be better than Hill was in the last couple years, but I wouldn't be surprised if Hill does well in Milwaukee, a park which is suited to his strengths. He'll also likely move back to second base, where he played before being dealt to Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade. If there was ever a player who needed a change of scenery more than Segura, I don't know who it would be, as he leaves behind a lot of bad memories in Milwaukee. And he should fit in, as he has reason to hate Ryan Braun as much as the rest of us.

Makakilo: Extremely hopeful! His offense has slumped for a couple years likely due to personal and contract distractions. Those distractions in no way reflect badly on him, and he has a great attitude about playing for the Diamondbacks! For details, please read Ken Rosenthal's article

Xipooo: I fear his patience at the plate will stay pretty close to the bottom in the majors, but I think his bat keeps him in the lineup. I think he starts most days with Owing/Ahmed swapping out duties. When Ahmed plays Segura will play 2B and when Owings plays Segura will play SS. He's the best bat of the 3 despite having his worst season last year. That means there's no where to go but up, right?

Jim: The good news is, second-base was so bad last year, he doesn't need to be very good to be an improvement. We had a .602 OPS, which is round about a 64 OPS+. Segura last season was at a .616 OPS and a 68 OPS+, so even that would be a slight improvement. If he can get to his career numbers, of .662 and an 81 OPS+, that would be a solid win. Really, there's just about nothing but upside here. If Chris Owings is better, then Chris Owings takes over.

Can Chris Owings turn it around in 2016?

Preston: At this point, I'll conjecture that he could, but he'll have to learn better zone control in order to do so, and there's no telling how he's doing on that until we see him in Spring Training. He'll have the benefit of a full spring this year, though, unlike last year.

Makakilo: Whether Chris Owings or Jean Segura is the best option for second base may not be decided until the All-Star break. Both have significant upside, and it is unlikely that spring training will provide adequate opportunity for evaluation. Both have options, and can be shuttled back and forth to/from the minors.

Xipooo: Yes, but I don't think he gets enough playing time to really prove it. I think he'll be splitting duties with Ahmed, with Ahmed getting 60% of the playing time. So unless Chris catches fire and starts hitting in the .400+ SLG range, he will always have questions around his ability to stay consistent and injury free.

Jim: He needs to now, because with Segura under contract for the next three years, it's no longer a question of simply outlasting Aaron Hill. Got to hope that health played a significant part in his struggles for 2015, but there can be no such excuse this season. I think 2016 is pretty much make or break for Owings.

What's the minimum Nick Ahmed needs to hit to justify his place?

Preston: Last year, Diamondbacks shortstops were fifth in the NL in WAA, at 0.3. So even if Ahmed's defense falls off slightly, a batting line like he had last year should have him at around average, which would justify his place. But I think he'll be a bit better, as his BABIP was over 20 points lower than his xBABIP, and even though he'll never be the BABIP king (his xBABIP is around .280) he could easily hit .240 instead of .220 with a bit better luck. He also showed some unexpected power last year, hitting 9 home runs, and particularly crushed left handed pitching (OPS of .796). Since he generally had reverse splits in the minor leagues, I'll hazard that he evens out this year, and posts an average somewhere around .250 with 10 home runs, and brings that OBP up around .300.

Makakilo: In 2015, Baseball Reference showed his defensive WAR was an awesome 2.8, and his offensive WAR was 0.3. He said he made improvements in all parts of his game in 2015. Fangraphs shows he hit better against left-handed pitchers (wRC+ of 115 vs wRC+ of 50). I hope he finds a way to improve against right-handed pitchers. Two areas to focus on are soft-hit balls (12.8% vs lefties, and 20.9% vs righties) and infield flies (5.7% vs lefties, and 12.4% vs righties).

In summary, because of his outstanding defense, if he can improve his hitting by 2% I would be satisfied.

Xipooo: I suspect .35 points below whatever Chris Owings is batting, with a rock bottom of .190. With Segura getting the majority of playing time, offense will be a bit less of a concern and his defense will continue to be the reason he keeps getting innings. I can see a scenario where this wouldn't be the case if someone of particular offensive importance is lost due to injury. Then the offensive situation would become priority #1 for the FO again.

Jim: The advantage of being a defense-first player is, it's a lot harder for your glove to go into a slump, with fielding less influenced by "luck" in the form of BABIP, etc. That does give Ahmed a solid base from which to build. Last year, he had a .634 OPS, and was still worth 2.5 bWAR, which is absolutely fine for someone earning league minimum, so I'd say anything above a .600 OPS would be okay. Obviously, the higher the better. He's still (just) only 25, so there may be some more offensive upside to come, but as long as he plays as well as last year, he'll be fine.