Mike Aviles could be the saving grace Jose Iglesias needed this season. The soft-hitting 22-year-old was poised to be Boston’s everyday starting shortstop this season based on his defense alone.
"Iglesias Led Triple-A shortstops with a .973 fielding percentage in 2011. Following the 2011 season, he was named the top defensive infielder in the Red Sox system and the best defensive shortstop in the International League by Baseball America."
Make no mistake—Bobby Valentine wanted Iglesias to start over Aviles early on in spring training.
On March 24, Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe wrote:
"Valentine reportedly told scouts from outside the Sox organization he wants Iglesias, not utility man Mike Aviles, as his starting shortstop. The Sox manager believes Iglesias is ready to play in the majors, which runs counter to the organization’s belief that Iglesias, who is batting .200 this spring with one extra-base hit, is greener than Fenway’s fabled Wall with the bat."
But then Aviles surged. The 31-year-old veteran from the Kansas City Royals won the starting the job out of camp hitting .279, with six doubles and eight RBI.
By winning the starting job, he effectively shielded Iglesias from the media storm that descended on Boston with their early-season woes.
Aviles has been a ray of sunshine poking through those gray clouds.
In addition to shielding Iglesias from Boston’s early struggles and the intense media scrutiny that goes along with it, he has been a huge part of Boston’s offense.
In 35 games, Aviles has hit .260, with five home runs and 23 RBI. He has 11 doubles. In addition to his solid numbers, he’s played a stellar short for the Red Sox.
Aviles’ play has allowed Iglesias to get valuable playing time in Triple-A Pawtucket.
Iglesias is the shortstop of the future for the Red Sox—but future is the key word.
There’s no need for the Red Sox to rush Iglesias up to Boston.
Iglesias could be a staple at Fenway for the next 10 years. But now he can mature in a less pressure-filled environment while Aviles firmly holds onto his role in Boston.
The Red Sox need some stability at shortstop. Over the past 10 years, the Red Sox have utilized 21 shortstops. Some have been good players for the Red Sox (Alex Gonzalez)—some have been disasters (Julio Lugo). (mlb.com)
The one common denominator among all 21 shortstops—none of them stuck in Boston.
Iglesias is showing some signs of life in Triple-A Pawtucket.
In 33 games, Iglesias has been able to hit .262 in 130 at bats. He only has three extra-base hits, but Iglesias will never hit for power.
His maturing at the plate in Pawtucket would not have been possible if Aviles didn’t prove to be such an integral part of Boston’s lineup.
Ten years from now, when Iglesias is entrenched in Fenway and on his way to receiving his 10th Gold Glove, Red Sox fans should remember that Aviles had a little something to do with it.