Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. MLB.com reporter Alden Gonzalez contributed to this article. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MILWAUKEE -- If first impressions are the thing, then the Brewers' new top prospect is off to a sparkling start. Jean Segura, the centerpiece of the three-player package netted last week from the Angels for Zack Greinke, had a hit in each of his first four games at Double-A Huntsville. He scored a run in three of those games. Segura doubled in two of them. He stole a base on his first night in the organization. In short -- and notably at shortstop, the position of most need in Milwaukee's system -- Segura showed all of the skills that the Brewers hope will lead him to Miller Park.
But pressure? Segura insists he wasn't feeling it. "They know what I can do. They traded for me for a reason," Segura said. "They didn't need to see me do anything in these games. There are no surprises. "I knew it was going to be the same game, same rules, different team. I don't like putting more pressure than that." The 22-year-old came to the Brewers with pitchers Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena in a Friday evening trade with the Angels, the second-best prospect dealt in July according to Baseball America and Milwaukee's new top prospect, according to MLB.com's updated list of the Brewers' top 20. Segura joined a Huntsville Stars infield rich with talent, with fellow All-Star Futures Game participant Scooter Gennett at second base and power hitter Hunter Morris at first. The Brewers have some history of collecting prospects at one level and advancing them up the chain together, believing the experience of winning as a group in the Minors translates to Milwaukee. Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks were together at Huntsville in 2005, and J.J. Hardy and then-third baseman Corey Hart were with the Stars the year before. Gennett and Segura are already feeling comfortable as a double-play tandem, Gennett said for a story at MiLB.com. They turned their first double play in Segura's first game with the Stars on Sunday. "We got that out of the way," Gennett said. "It was real smooth. We're going to turn a lot more and hopefully make some Top 10 [highlight reels] with it." Which begs the question: Will Segura make it to Milwaukee as a shortstop? He played second base until 2011, when Segura says the Angels moved him, "because they thought I had more of a chance to be successful" at shortstop. But his frame -- 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, according to his MiLB.com profile -- may project better for second base as he ages and bulks up, scouts say. That is a crowded position for the Brewers, with Weeks under contract through 2014 or '15, depending on whether an option vests in his contract, and Gennett hitting his way up the ladder. The Brewers have a knack for working out those logjams, either via trade or position switch. Hart, for example, started as a first baseman, moved to third because of then-top prospect Brad Nelson, then to the outfield because Wes Helms was signed to man third in Milwaukee, and now finds himself back at first base, nearly a decade later. "We're going to keep him at shortstop," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said of Segura. "He's played there. At some point, he may go to second base, as a lot of shortstops do. We're going to keep him at shortstop, because we have a need there and he has the ability to play there." Does Segura prefer one position over the other? "I just like to play baseball," he said. The move to shortstop, he said, "was great. Not many people play at shortstop, and I like that. I'm enjoying playing there right now. I think that was a good move for me, because if you can play shortstop, you can play wherever they put you." Segura has the speed -- 34 stolen bases in 98 games between the Brewers' and Angels' Double-A affiliates this season -- and arm strength. The question, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said after speaking to his Angels counterpart, Mike Scioscia, is frame. As Segura bulks up, will he still be rangy enough for shortstop? Angels GM Jerry Dipoto weighed in. "Every organization is going to have a different criteria for what they expect out of their shortstop," Dipoto said. "Jean has the tools to play shortstop. He's athletic, he moves well, he's quick laterally, he's got plenty of arm strength. He's a very 'toolsy' player. "Whether that translates into a Major League shortstop or not remains to be seen, but he has all the equipment to do what needs to be done -- to play shortstop every day. A lot of it is going to be dictated by what you have. We have a very good Major League shortstop, and I think for us, with the way we were situated for the next few years, Jean probably wasn't going to get a great opportunity to play in an everyday role, barring injury or the unforeseen. The Brewers obviously coveted him in that role, and it fits." The Brewers' long-term shortstop plan has been in flux since they traded Alcides Escobar -- a prototypical shortstop -- to the Royals in the deal that landed Greinke in the first place. But the Angels were set up the middle, with shortstop Erick Aybar and second baseman Howard Kendrick signed long-term. "The world's not swimming with toolsy players who have the ability to stay at shortstop as a Major Leaguer, and have the offensive capabilities of contributing every day with that," Dipoto said. "And Jean has the ability to do those things." Segura was in the midst of a brief callup to the Angels when he learned about the trade like many fans did -- on television. "I think it gives me a good opportunity," Segura said. "I've been waiting for the opportunity."