Amongst all of the storylines and decisions for the 2012 Boston Red Sox, the most debate arguably lies in the decision of who will begin the season as the starting shortstop.
Since Nomar Garciaparra was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2004, the Red Sox have struggled in finding a primary long-term shortstop who is able to provide efficiently. This year will be no different, as there are major conflicts already in terms who of will start this year.
At first we believed that Marco Scutaro would once again begin the season as the starting shortstop, but that idea was nudged when Ben Cherington dealt him to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for pitcher Clayton Mortensen to lower the budget. As a result, Mike Aviles had been regarded as the best option to play the position this upcoming season.
Aviles, who will turn 30 this season, has been a very quality bench player throughout his career. Well-received for his quality production with the bat, Aviles is hitting well in spring training with a .293 batting average. His defense is considered average at best, however.
Yet is clear that skipper Bobby Valentine has a different perspective on who deserves the starting job. Bobby V believes highly touted prospect Jose Iglesias is ready for the position, as he doubts Aviles's capabilities as a starter.
Iglesias, a 22-year-old from Cuba, has caught the eyes of many for his stellar defensive abilities. He is one of Boston's most formidable and anticipated prospects in quite some time. However, where Iglesias is phenomenal with the glove, he has been anything but solid with the bat.
Throughout his entire career, Iglesias has had difficulties swinging the bat well, and spring training this year seems to be no different. He's currently hitting .174 with 4 RBI, and many—including Cherington—feel as though he needs more time to develop in the minor league level.
Where should Jose Iglesias be by Opening Day
So essentially, a player with the bat of Aviles and the glove and speed of Iglesias would create the perfect shortstop. Unfortunately, we can not combine both of them, and therefore must decide which man is the best option for the team on Opening Day.
Looking at both ends of the spectrum, both men are capable of being effective, but Aviles is the clear-cut best option for the time being. While many can understand Valentine's love of Iglesias for his glove and speed, he is still almost an automatic out in the lineup as of now.
Where Iglesias is an asset as a possible pinch runner or a late-inning substitute on the diamond, there is no doubt that he needs another year or so to adjust his hitting ability. Boston currently has two speed demons in Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury in the lineup as it is. Why is Iglesias a necessary component to succeed this season?
While Aviles is no Gold Glove-caliber defender, he is good enough. His bat and his experience exceed anything Iglesias brings to the table at this point in the season. Maybe down the stretch the team will need a speedster or a glove, and thus calling up Iglesias will be justifiable. However, Aviles brings more to the table on Opening Day.
I am not taking anything away from Iglesias, because he is very anticipated for a reason. He's good and he's the shortstop of the future for this organization. However, the minor leagues are here for a reason. He still needs to develop all of his skills and better his approach at the plate. Without at least a decent bat, he is not truly valuable to the starting lineup.
It is evident he needs more time. Why rush the progression of a 22-year-old prospect? He has plenty of years in his tank ahead. Aviles is the best option for now, despite the flashiness that Iglesias has brought to the table in Spring Training.