CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jean Segura was a top-100 prospect and a likely future major-league shortstop — in other words, no slouch — when he went to play in the Arizona Fall League in 2011.
Yet he still recalls being slack-jawed whenever he turned and saw the two young players in the outfield.
Imagine Bryce Harper and Mike Trout — the baseball equivalent of, say, Kevin Durant and LeBron James — playing on the same team. Segura doesn’t have to. He was there seven years ago with the Scottsdale Scorpions when Harper and Trout, 19 and 20 years old at the time, played side by side for nearly six weeks.
“It was kind of crazy,” Segura said after the Phillies finished working out here Thursday. “Even back then, I knew for sure they would be in All-Star games.”
Any day now, Segura could be reunited with Harper. Having walked away from negotiations with Manny Machado this week after he received a record-setting $300 million offer from the San Diego Padres, the Phillies have accelerated talks with agent Scott Boras and remain confident that they will sign Harper, who is looking to eclipse Machado’s deal.
Between Machado and Harper, the 26-year-old superstars on this winter’s free-agent market, Phillies fans overwhelmingly prefer the latter, at least according to a Twitter poll posted this week by an MLB.com writer. Eighty-six percent of the more than 9,500 respondents voted for Harper, a result that hasn’t escaped the notice of Phillies officials.
But Trout, were he available, would be the real object of the fans’ desire because of both his status as baseball’s best player and his South Jersey roots and unabashed Philly sports fandom. He has Eagles season tickets, and in speaking to reporters earlier this week in Arizona, he referred to Philadelphia fans as “we.”
Trout isn’t available, though. Not for two more years, at least, when he would be eligible for free agency. And if Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno has his way, Trout will sign a contract extension that will keep him in Orange County for the remainder of his career.
For now, then, Phillies fans will be left to dream. And if the mere thought of Harper and Trout playing together in the outfield at Citizens Bank Park gets them excited, Segura is here to say that the reality lives up to the fantasy.
In 2011, Trout had already played in the majors, getting a 40-game cameo with the Angels in the second half of the season. By the time he arrived in Scottsdale, he was burned out from a long season. But despite batting .245 with six extra-base hits and a .600 on-base plus slugging percentage in 106 at-bats, he still showed flashes of the player he would become.
“He’s always played the game the right way — hard,” said Segura, Trout’s teammate for two seasons in the Angels farm system. “We were playing in the low-A season in 2010, and I saw how he grounded out to first base and beat it out and how fast he was when he hit the ball and got out of the box. When you saw this kid play, you knew right away he’s going to be a superstar at the major-league level.”
Maybe so, but all the hype in Arizona in 2011 was centered on Harper. He had just turned 19 and finished his first minor-league season after being drafted No. 1 overall one year earlier, and scouts who hadn’t seen him yet flocked to Scottsdale to catch a glimpse of a kid who was pictured on a Sports Illustrated cover at age 16.
“He was so young. Good athlete,” Segura said. “I think, mentally wise, he was not prepared for it. But he matured.”
Harper was also the best hitter on a loaded Scottsdale team that featured future big-leaguers Will Middlebrooks, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Derek Norris and Darin Ruf, in addition to Trout and Segura. Harper led the team with six home runs, 26 RBIs and a 1.034 OPS in 93 at-bats.
Segura, a two-time All-Star who has the ninth-most hits in the majors since 2013, said playing alongside Harper and Trout “made me important” because it enabled him to realize his potential.
“It was steps from the big-league level, and to be around those guys, playing with each other, it was fun,” Segura said. “I never considered myself on that level. Now I realize, whoa, you have to feel good about it because not many people can make it there.”
Segura said, of course, he would welcome a chance to play with Harper again. And Trout?
“He’s from Philly, from New Jersey. When [the Eagles] won the Super Bowl, he was there," Segura said. "So, watch out, we’ll maybe get him after the 2020 season.”