Aug 22, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstopJose Iglesias
(1) makes a throw against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
On July 30, 2013, the Detroit Tigers traded for Jose Iglesias as a part of a 3 team deal. Iglesias was deemed the Tigers’ shortstop for the future with a reputation as a defensive wizard of the likes of Omar Vizquel and Ozzie Smith. At the plate, Iglesias was billed as a gritty player who could leg out infield hits with the best, but his glove was his strong suit.
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Iglesias lived up to his billing with plays like these and more. Iglesias was gritty at the plate in his 46 games with the Tigers with a .259/.306/.654 stat line which is around what the Tigers should get from Iglesias. His BABIP was .414 in the first half of the year which explained his numbers with Boston and ended the year with a .356 BABIP. To put that in perspective, only 6 players had a BABIP of .356 or more in all of baseball in 2014.
2014 was a lost season for Iglesias with shin injuries, but the Tigers believe Iglesias is healthy now and will the starting shortstop in 2015. The question is what exactly is healthy for Iglesias? Will he be the same player the Tigers traded for at the trade deadline in 2013 or will he be a half a step slower? Will he be able to leg out the infield hits like he did in 2013? (FanGraphs says he had 16 IFH in 2013, I remember more.) Will he still have the range he had in 2013 which helped him gain the status as an extraordinary fielder?
The Tigers believe he will be the same player, or at least better than Eugenio Suarez will be, as they showed by trading Suarez to the Cincinnati Reds for Alfredo Simon. There are some unknowns entering the 2015 season, but Iglesias is one of the biggest. Hopefully, he will be the same player and can stay healthy, because Andrew Romine is not on Jose Iglesias’s level.
The Tigers can probably expect Iglesias to hover around his 2013 Tigers numbers. Steamer projects him to have a .265/.312/.350 split with 12 steals. Iglesias has 15 steals speed which could come with some coaching. The other stats to watch with Iglesias are his strikeout and walk percentages. In 2013, Iglesias had a 3.9% BB% and a 15.7% K%. If Iglesias has more plate discipline and hold his BABIP, he will be very successful at the plate.
The other stat Iglesias needs to improve is his batted ball percentage. He hit 18.0% line drives which is below league average. He also had an infield fly ball percentage of 19.7% in 2013 and 30.8% in 2012. Both of those numbers would have been league highs in 2014. Iglesias has a great speed tool, and he can’t use it on infield popups.
Iglesias’ ceiling could be the number or leadoff batter for the Tigers this year. Most lineup projections have Iglesias as the number 9 batter, but if he can elevate his walk rate and hit more line drives, he could be a strong top of the order hitter with his speed and bat handling ability.