Stars align for Double-A infield partners

Angel-turned-Brewer Segura joins Gennett in Huntsville infield

By Andrew Pentis / Special to | August 2, 2012 6:02 AM ET

On the one play up the middle of the infield that is up in the air before it happens -- who covers the bag on a stolen base attempt -- how does a Cincinnati-born second baseman communicate with the Dominican shortstop to his right? Actually, there are no words said, only a simple gesture behind the webbing of their mitts.

"It's open-mouth, closed-mouth," said Ohio native Scooter Gennett. "If he gives me an open mouth, then I have the bag. If he gives me a closed mouth, he has the bag. The shortstop has priority. He decides. But if there is something that he doesn't know about the guy, I might flash him back a closed mouth for me to have it."

"You have to be smart," adds Jean Segura of San Juan, who speaks his second language with almost as much confidence as he practices his first love. "It depends what pitch [is thrown], how late or out front is the hitter, where the catcher calls a pitch -- there are a lot of things you have to focus on. Sometimes, we [know in advance], sometimes we don't. Sometimes we go by the pitch. If it's an outside pitch, I'll cover it. If it's an inside pitch, he'll cover it."

There is of course more to do than monitoring the opposition's running game for Gennett and Segura, both 21 and now two of the Brewers' top seven prospects after the latter infielder was shipped from Los Angeles in one of many pre-deadline deals (see table, below). They turned their first double play in their joint debut on Sunday, a 6-4-3 maneuver in the third inning.

"We got that out of the way. It was real smooth. We're going to turn a lot more and hopefully make some Top 10s with it," Gennett said, referring to Top 10 highlight reels. "I am really excited to work with him and pick up some things. It was a great trade that's only going to make our organization better, but it's also going to make me and him better."

And in the short-term?

"We got what we needed," he added, "and that was a shortstop."

In fact, the Southern League Stars have had seven different shortstops -- including the recently released Tommy Manzella -- play at least 17 games at the position. Segura is No. 8, at least for the rest of 2012.

"I feel good about the trade," said Segura, who played against his new teammate in the Midwest League in 2010 and in the MLB Futures Game last June. "I have known Scooter for a long time. He's a good second baseman, and I'm happy to share the field with him."

And in the long-term?

"It's a good chance," he added, "for me to have success in the big leagues."

That's because Segura's first and former organization was flush with Erick Aybar (shortstop) and Howie Kendrick (second base), who are contracted to be side by side through the 2015 season. Coincidentally, Aybar, who is currently on the disabled list, and Kendrick are the only Minors duo in recent years to also play together in the Majors. They were stationed at Double-A Arkansas in 2005 and at Triple-A Salt Lake in 2006 while making their MLB debuts three weeks apart. (The Halos would sign Segura out of his home country in January 2007.)

Aybar and Kendrick may not be the anomaly for long, as Huntsville's is not the only formidable pairing with a chance to arrive next. Consider the connected talent at Double-A: Manny Machado (shortstop) and Jonathan Schoop (second base) at Bowie; Wilmer Flores (SS) and Reese Havens (2B) at Binghamton; Hak-Ju Lee (SS) and the just-promoted Derek Dietrich (2B) at Montgomery; and, a sleeper set, Chris Owings (SS) and David Nick (2B) at Mobile.

Why have there been so few prospects to realize their potential alongside one another? Like people, positions change. Take Gennett, who was drafted as a Florida high school shortstop in 2009. He switched to second in May 2010. Then there is Segura, who played second his first four years as a pro before sliding over to short on Opening Day 2011.

One Milwaukee scout said his organization plans to leave Segura where he is "as long as he continues to show that he can play there." But the scout added that, while he may be in the minority, he views him as more of a second baseman or, with Gennett in play, a third baseman. (For his part, Gennett said this, "I think I can be an above-average second baseman defensively in the big leagues.")

So Brewers All-Star Rickie Weeks need not fear for his job at second, not yet anyway. Gennett (14 errors in 103 games) and Segura (18 errors in 97) are not flawless farmhands by any means, but there is also a lot to like about their futures. One scout from another National League club who has seen the 5-foot-9, 164-pound Gennett this season, said he is most impressed by his hitting ability, his high energy and added that his colleagues undervalue him because of his size. All three characteristics are shared by Segura, who at 5-foot-10 and 164 pounds just happens to be listed one inch taller and one pound heavier.

The similarities on offense: Gennett batted .304 over his first two pro seasons and has posted .285/.326/.380 marks so far this season, his first at Double-A. Segura meanwhile was a career .316 hitter entering this year and, through 94 games at Arkansas and three at Huntsville, he has put up a .297/.347/.406 line. Yes, a lot to like.

Do the ballplayers see their new marriage without separation?

"I definitely see that in our future. I definitely see us continuing to move up," Gennett said, "and ultimately turning double plays in the big leagues."

"We're going to play and maybe we'll move out together," Segura, traded once already, added cautiously. "You never know."

Speaking of...
There is only one relationship on the diamond that is more communicative than a double-play combo -- that of catcher and pitcher. So when's No. 10 prospect Jacob Turner was traded from the Tigers to the Marlins in advance of the deadline (see table, below), Detroit added a care package in Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens batterymate Rob Brantly.

"I first heard about it from some of my teammates," Brantly said of being involved in the deal. "I was a bit shocked. I thought they were pulling a joke on me. I was sitting there eating and everybody started shaking my hand, saying, 'Good luck, man.' I had no idea what they were talking about, but it was off Twitter. Finally, I got the call from [Tigers GM] Dave Dombrowski."

Brantly, no slouch himself and now Miami's 13th-ranked prospect, served as Turner's receiver at Class A West Michigan in 2010. He admitted, however, that he didn't have a strong rapport with the heralded hurler until they reunited at Triple-A Toledo following his promotion from Erie on June 6. On the advice of roving catching coordinator (and 2010 manager) Joe DePastino, Brantly "made it a point" to huddle with Turner in the clubhouse and strengthen their rapport. Three days later, on June 9, he caught Turner's first Triple-A win.

"Learning the pitchers' strengths in certain counts, what they feel most comfortable throwing in challenging situations so that the pitcher is not up there shaking three, four times," Brantly said of the necessary in-game back-and-forth. "Jacob has good stuff all across the board -- his two-seamer has a lot of life on it, and it took me a little bit of time for me to get familiar with it -- but he has confidence in all of his pitches. There isn't a lot of shaking off going on. He'll trust what I call and go for it."

Most recently, Brantly was a part of Turner's organizational debut: five innings of one-run ball and a win on Saturday. The battery boarding together at Triple-A New Orleans only helps things. "You want to get along if you're going to be living with a person, right?" Branly asked in jest. "I'm not saying we're completely simpatico. There are occasions where I'll put down something, and he'll want something else, but we'll find it."

Non-waiver Trade Deadline Deals
Date From To Prospects
7/20 TOR HOU Joe Musgrove, Asher Wojciechowski, Carlos Perez
7/21 CWS HOU Matthew Heidenreich, Blair Walters
7/23 DET MIA Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly, Brian Flynn
7/23 NYY SEA D.J. Mitchell
7/25 PIT HOU Colton Cain, Robbie Grossman, Rudy Owens
7/25 LA MIA Nathan Eovaldi, Scott McGough
7/27 LAA MIL Jean Segura, Ariel Pena, Johnny Hellweg
7/28 SF COL Charlie Culberson
7/29 CWS MIN Pedro Hernandez
7/29 ARI HOU Bobby Borchering, Marc Krauss
7/31 STL MIA Zack Cox
7/31 CIN KC JC Sulbaran, Donnie Joseph
7/31 TEX CHC Christian Villanueva, Kyle Hendricks
7/31 LA PHI Ethan Martin
7/31 SF PHI Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin
7/31 TEX CHC Jacob Brigaham
Prospect Up
Dan Straily is still not a ranked prospect around here, but he is a prospect, and that couldn't be said, say, a year ago. The A's Triple-A right-hander, featured in this week's Prospect Pitch, has been completely remade as a hurler (new mechanics, new arm slot) but, at 23, the former 24th-round draftee out of hotbed baseball universities Western Oregon and Marshall, told this writer that his transformation has as much to do with his mind as his arm. One comment that didn't make it into the story: "I remember when I first got here a couple of years ago. I would go to the field and be like, 'I hope my curveball is on today, I hope I can spot up the fastball.' And this last year and a half, it's been more like expecting it. And if it's not there, I don't care -- I find a way to get there." And in the process, he's found himself a prospect, even if he remains unranked.

Prospect(s) Down (and now Back Up)
This column space was misused in two separate editions. No. 37 Gary Brown (Giants) and No. 58 Aaron Hicks (Twins), both center fielders leading off for Eastern League clubs, were counted "Down." That was this writer's mistake. Brown (.227 in April) and Hicks (.220 in May) have both had their struggles at the plate in their first try at Double-A, but these guys have more recently shown the ability to counter advanced pitching. What has them back playing to their potential? After recording his seventh straight multi-hit game on July 13, Brown told, "I know now I'm making my adjustments from pitch to pitch rather than game to game or at-bat to at-bat." And Hicks? He collected a career-high five hits -- including his 10th homer -- on July 25 then told us the key to his improvement was also partly mental: "Maturing as a hitter, trying not to hit the longball and stay in the gaps."

Memo from Mayo
Over this year's Trade Deadline period, a total of 22 players now on teams' Top 20 prospect lists at Prospect Watch were dealt. That doesn't include a number of players, like Bobby Borchering and Colton Cain, who were on Top 20 lists at the time of the trade but aren't now. The overall list is a bit short in terms of elite prospect talent. Last year, the buzz was around Zack Wheeler as the top name on the move. Though there are players from the Top 100 rankings -- three to be exact -- there aren't the "sexy" names that get people talking. That doesn't mean there weren't talented players and future big leaguers who are with new organizations. For Draft and prospects expert Jonathan Mayo's full analysis of these moves, visit's Prospects Central.

Your Questions, Answered
Tweet your prospect-related queries to @AndrewMiLB.

Reading Material

Prospect Tweet Worth Re-tweeting: "Whats the perfect way to end an 8 game road trip? Not sure but our bus broke down outside Reno." -- Sacramento River Cats pitcher Graham Godfrey, AKA @Grahamgodfrey45.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at AndrewMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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