There are going to be more changes before next week’s MLB All-Star Game. We know this. It always happens. But we now have our Final Vote winners: Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesús Aguilar and Seattle Mariners shortstop Jean Segura are in. In fact, Aguilar’s vote total — 20.2 million — is second-highest among Final Vote contestants. Only Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner — 20.8 million — got more.
For Segura, it’s his second All-Star nod after his 2013 appearance — then with the Brewers. But with Aguilar, this is all the more special in its own way.
After being blocked in Cleveland, the Brewers gave him a chance when they claimed him on waivers last season. Yet he would still be blocked there as well, this time by free agent signing Eric Thames. In 311 plate appearances, Aguilar hit .265/.331/.505 with 16 home runs. Fairly productive for a player who didn’t get everyday action. Still, he didn’t even have a guaranteed spot on this roster heading into the 2018 season.
But with early injuries to Eric Thames and Ryan Braun this season, plus under-performance from Braun and Domingo Santana, Aguilar got his shot. And he hasn’t looked back.
He’s walking a little more (9.8 percent) while striking out less (26.4 percent). His wRC+ of 164 paces all first basemen. The next-closest player is Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman (151). With that number, Aguilar ranks fifth in all of baseball. Only Mookie Betts (197), Mike Trout (190), J.D. Martinez (178) and José Ramírez (166) are ahead of him. Then there’s the .307/.375/.638 slash line; the 23 home runs that pace the National League.
No matter which number you look at, Aguilar is special. And he’s having a special season, just like Segura.
It wasn’t always so special for Jean, though.
After a strong first half in 2013 — .325/.363/.487; 11 doubles, eight triples, 11 home runs and 27 stolen bases — he became one of the worst hitters in the league. He hit just one dinger in the second half, slashing .241/.268/.315 the rest of the way. His production dipped across the board, and for the next two seasons his line sat at .252/.285/.331 (.616 OPS). At one point Ryan Braun accidentally hit him in the face with a bat.
But far worse than that, Segura’s ninth-month old son passed away in the Dominican Republic in July of 2014. It wasn’t until the 2016 season after being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks the previous winter, that Segura’s career got back on track. He went on to pace the NL in at-bats (637) and hits (203) that year, slashing .319/.368/.499 with 20 home runs and 33 stolen bases.
For some reason the Diamondbacks didn’t think he could do it again, so they sent him on his way to the Seattle Mariners. Since then he’s earned himself a five-year extension worth $70 million, slashing .311/.352/.444 (.796 OPS) all the while. His wRC+ of 130 this season ranks fourth among shortstops. He’s still just 28 years old. Per Fangraphs he’s already having a better season in the first half (3.2 fWAR) than he did for a full season last year (2.9).
Like Aguilar, it’s pretty damn special.