By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Nov 26, 2013 at 1:04 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

Not much was known about Jean Segura when he arrived in Milwaukee on Aug. 6, 2012 to play against the Cincinnati Reds. Sure, he was a top prospect in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s system and was a key piece in the Zack Greinke trade earlier that summer, but still – prospects are prospects.

Segura had an odd injury history, too. He had suffered a broken ankle and finger in 2009. In 2011 he played just 52 games, missing significant time with pulled hamstrings leading to the discovery that his legs were slightly different lengths, and he began to wear insoles to balance him out and help counteract the hamstring issues.

Finally healthy, Segura was hitting .304 with 25 extra base hits through 94 in Class AA when the Brewers acquired him in July, 2012. Even then, the Brewers weren’t sure if he could play shortstop at the major league level.

And, there is always the challenge of hitting consistently in the big leagues.

He did struggle initially, hitting just .202 through his first 24 games with the Brewers. But a three-hit day against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 9 started a hot stretch where he finished the season hitting .328 with a .408 on base percentage over his final 21 games.

Segura carried that over into the winter of 2012, where he won the Dominican Winter League batting title, hitting .324 over 35 games there. He had January to himself, and then reported to Brewers camp in February of 2013.

The hot-hitting continued into his first full major league season, where he was named an All-Star and flirted with the National League lead in batting average, hits, triples and stolen bases.

But, he did slump considerably for an extended period of time. Over the final 67 games of the year he had a rather pedestrian "slash line" of .255/.291/.322 while collecting just 14 extra base hits in that period.

"He did tail off a bit in August and September; I don’t know the reasons, whether it was just a heavy workload or teams making adjustments," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "I talked to him and he said teams made adjustments to him and now it’s his responsibility to adjust back. He’s got a lot of physical skills – arm strength, great legs. He’s got great instincts for a 23-year-old."

Did opposing pitchers finally figure him out?

"You’re going to see that adjustment every week, even in the minor leagues," Segura said. "If you’re not hitting that ball, they’re going to throw that ball. If you can’t hit a breaking ball, they’re going to throw that breaking ball. They’re not going to give you anything easy to hit because they know you can do some damage with that pitch, so they’re going to throw another pitch you can’t hit. It’s a lot of cameras, a lot video, on every starter in the game, so they know this guy can hit inside, this guy can hit outside, they know everything. So, you make your adjustments and get ready to hit your pitch, not their pitch. They’re always going to throw balls. That’s the mentality."

While there was the usual cat-and-mouse game to play with pitchers, did he also simply wear down after playing baseball non-stop for the better part of two calendar years?

That is likely as well.

For as quickly as Segura can move on the field, he is very deliberate off it, whether it’s taking indoor batting practice before outdoor BP, then moving slowly through the clubhouse and removing his batting gloves, or getting himself ready to go home after a game.

Yet it became obvious as the year progressed that the 23-year-old was moving even more slowly than usual, and it got to the point that even manager Ron Roenicke finally acknowledged he was "banged up."

Segura wound up missing 16 games as it were, but he finished his first full season with a solid line of .294/.329/.423 with a .752 OPS.

He drove in 49 runs, had 45 extra base hits and stole 44 bases as well.

"I’m a little surprised right now what I did through the season," Segura admitted. "I think I’ve got the tools to do a lot of things, but not that quick. I didn’t think I’d improve that talent I had that quick. It’s awesome. I really had a good season and I’m proud of it."

Much was unknown about Segura heading into 2013, and now the team knows it has a cornerstone piece.

"We had talks last year; they didn’t get to where we wanted them to," Melvin said about a long-term extension. "We met with his agent here in September, our last home stand, he was in town and we met with him. We discussed the possibility of getting together, we didn’t discuss terms or length or anything like that. But we had a discussion that we would follow up in the off-season. There is no timetable to it; he’s not an arbitration-eligible player. There’s no timetable to it. It’s probably at some point where we feel we can sit down and have a discussion."

This is likely his first full winter "off," as players with up to 552 plate appearances can participate while Segura finished with 623.

The rest will allow him to dissect what he did well and didn’t do well, and prepare himself for a full major league season that he hopes extends into October in 2014.

"Everybody that plays all the time, everybody is tired – pitcher, position player," he said. "It’s a long season. You only have 18 days off in 162 games, it’s not enough days off. You have to prepare for that. Hopefully I take the experience from this year and can do it better and keep playing hard (next year).

"Yeah, some changes (will be made). I’m going to take the time off and when it’s September and October I won’t be too tired to play games. I’ll be prepared for that. I’m going to go home, work hard to play a full season."

While it’s to be determined what kind of hitter he will ultimately be, what was easily determined was he was a major league shortstop. He finished second in the National League in assists and fifth in putouts and fielding percentage.

He made 15 errors (third in the NL) but it was because he could get to so many balls in play – according to he was third in Range Factor per nine innings as a shortstop and and fourth in Range Factor per game.

"He made plays earlier in the year that other shortstops don’t make," Melvin said. "We were more of a strikeout team last year, our pitching staff. This year’s pitching staff didn’t strike out as many people; the ball was put in play, so I think his defense was a huge part early in the year. He’s got great instinct on popups."

Despite all the accolades he received internally and externally, and while he impressed himself to some degree, Segura wasn’t about to enter the offseason feeling totally satisfied that he had "made it" as a big league player.

"In this game, you don’t take anything for granted you know? If you take anything for granted you’re going to be over," he said. "I’m going to go and work, stay humble. I was humble when I came up, still when I’m here. It’s not anything to change. The pitchers are going to know me better now because I’ve been around the league for like a year and a half, so I have to make my adjustments as they do, too. That’s what it’s about, making your adjustments. We’ll see."

He laughed, and smiled at that line of thinking, perhaps knowing it’s a bit of wisdom a player with just 191 games of big league experience shouldn’t possess.

"When you’re in this league you always learn something," he continued. "Even when guys have five years in the league they’re still learning. Sometimes it takes you a long time, sometimes not. I just go there and work on everything. sometimes you feel good about it and you’ll do bad during the game. Sometimes you take the best BP ever and feel you’re the best player in the world and you’ll fail in the game – what happened? It’s baseball.

"Every player has to work hard on everything to be successful in the big leagues because if you’re not successful in the big leagues, somebody’s going to take your spot."

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.