It would be easy to dismiss Jose Iglesias as Boston’s long-term answer at shortstop since he is batting just .067 (2-for-30) in his first taste of semi-regular playing time at the Major League level. Judging Iglesias solely on that sample size, though, would be a mistake.
Iglesias has already made an array of dazzling plays in the field during his short stint with the Red Sox. Some scouts have said he would already be the best defensive shortstop among starters in the majors if he was a regular in the lineup. Though he has been in the Red Sox farm system since 2009 (when he signed as an international free agent and debuted in the Arizona Fall League), Iglesias is still just 22.
Possessing no power at the plate, Iglesias is never going to be a run producer. It is a matter of whether his Major League hitting numbers resemble fellow Cuban Rey Ordonez (who had a .246 career average over nine Major League seasons) or Omar Vizquel (a career .272 hitter over 24 big league seasons). Considering Iglesias’ exceptional defensive skills, the Red Sox would likely be ecstatic if he hit between .240 and .250.
Over parts of three minor league seasons, Iglesias has a .264 average with two home runs in 979 at-bats. The Red Sox were pleased with his improved and more patient plate approach this season. Iglesias batted .266 with a .318 on-base percentage in 353 at-bats at Pawtucket this year compared to .235 and a .285 OBP in 357 at-bats for the PawSox in 2011.
Iglesias is not the only highly regarded shortstop in the Red Sox system. Xander Bogaerts, who is just 19, was Boston’s 2012 Minor League Offensive Player of the Year at was impressive at Double-A Portland. There are questions about whether he can remain at shortstop for the long term, or if his growing body will require a move to third base or the outfield. Bogaerts at third base and perhaps Will Middlebrooks at first base would give the Red Sox two potent middle-of the-order bats.
The Red Sox also have Jose Vinicio (who has drawn comparisons to Jose Reyes) and 2012 first round pick Deven Marrero (a defensively sound shortstop out of Arizona State University who is a line drive hitter) at the Single-A level, and the team is understandably high on both.
Since the Red Sox have just $46-plus million in salary commitments for 2013, and a need to add a big bat after the trade of Adrian Gonzalez, speculation has started that the team could acquire a young player entering his prime like Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, who is a shortstop. If that happens this off-season, then Bogaerts will undoubtedly be moved to another position, and Iglesias would either be shopped or transitioned into a utility player.
Just as Manny Ramirez could roll out of bed and hit, Iglesias can fall on the floor out of bed, ignore the “sleep” in his eyes and still make better plays than most Major League shortstops. A team that has a loaded lineup could afford to have Iglesias in the No. 9 hole with a .245 average. It is just a matter of if he can hit enough to reach .245.