The Boston Red Sox have bolstered their roster this offseason by signing a number of free agents. However, their largest question still remains. Who will be the team’s shortstop in 2013?
To date, the major Red Sox additions include outfielders Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino, reliever Koji Uehara and catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli.
FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Napoli deal, once believed to be all but done, has hit recent snags.
It seems that the main concern emanating from the Red Sox offseason has been their lack of a big move. ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes believes the team’s acquisitions have all been complimentary and lack a centerpiece like Josh Hamilton.
As it turns out, the Red Sox may need a shortstop even more than a superstar.
Jose Iglesias and Pedro Ciriaco are the only players currently on Boston’s 2013 40-man roster with the ability to play shortstop. Neither should be seen as an acceptable choice for the starting position.
Iglesias generated a lot of excitement after being signed as a teenager out of Cuba. At the time, NESN’s John Beattie reported that he had “drawn comparisons to Ozzie Smith and other Gold Glove shortstops.” The Scouting Book wrote, “Iglesias' fielding has been described as 'Ozzie Smith-style slick', already meriting a perfect 80 on the scouting scale.”
Who should be the 2013 Red Sox starting shortstop?
Unfortunately, the 22-year-old Cuban has not yet come close to living up to those expectations. The problem isn't his fielding, which has been as good as advertised. The reason the Red Sox should not be using him as their shortstop in 2013 is because he can’t hit.
During his three seasons in the minors, Iglesias has hit a combined .264 with two home runs and 74 RBI in 261 games. He has just a .626 OPS and totaled only 39 extra-base hits.
Although it is a small sample size, Iglesias has been even worse during his brief major league stints. He has just 10 hits in 74 at-bats between 2011 and 2012, adding up to a paltry .135 batting average.
The offensive ineptness of Iglesias was put on full display during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays this past September. WEEI’s Alex Speier detailed how then-manager Bobby Valentine pulled the youngster for a pinch-hitter in the middle of a 2-2 count.
Iglesias’ production at the plate has not been getting better. His batting average and OPS have declined in each of his three professional seasons. It seems like giving him significant playing time next season would be very risky.
The Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber tweeted that the Red Sox believe Iglesias is ready for the majors, but aren't ready to hand him the starting job just yet.
Cherington: #RedSox believe Jose Iglesias is ready to be major league SS, but team not ready to hand him the job— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) October 23, 2012
If Iglesias isn't the starter, the only other current option is Ciriaco. He should also not be considered a viable solution.
Ciriaco is a 27-year-old veteran of eight minor league seasons. Prior to last year’s 76-game stint with the Red Sox, he spent his career toiling in the minors for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks. The 39 at-bats he had with Pittsburgh in 2010-2011 represent his only other major league experience.
During his first two months with the Red Sox, Ciriaco was a bit of a revelation, hitting .333. However, he came back to earth and struggled down the stretch, finishing with a .293 average, two home runs, 19 RBI and 16 stolen bases.
Ciriaco has no patience at the plate. He had just six unintentional walks with the Red Sox, and the last time he had as many as 20 in a full season was 2007.
It appears that Ciriaco’s inflated 2012 batting average may have been heavily influenced by two anomalies.
Ciriaco was a true Yankee killer last season, hitting .415 (22-for-53) against New York, but just .264 against everyone else. It would be a tall order to keep up such a pace against the annual contenders, and it’s tough to rely on having such success against any team in a given season.
FanGraphs.com shows Ciriaco had a 2012 BABIP of .352. With an average player typically having a mark around .300, there’s a good chance he experienced quite a bit of luck that will be difficult to maintain in the future.
Ciriaco can play capable defense at shortstop, second or third. His defensive metrics according to FanGraphs.com show that he is solid, but nothing special. His inability to get on base should give the Red Sox the greatest pause in deciding his playing time in 2013.
So far this offseason, the Red Sox have not been seriously linked to any available shortstops, but entering 2013 with one of their incumbents as the starter is not in their best interests. Accordingly, the team should continue to ask the question, who will be their shortstop in 2013?
Statistics via BaseballReference