Over the next few weeks, I'll be publishing a series of articles on the Red Sox farm system, profiling a dozen or so top-tier prospects that have high potentials and will likely help the club as the next wave of homegrown talent. You can read Part Two on Felix Doubront here.
I spent several hundred exhaustive words singing the praises of Jed Lowrie in an article I wrote in January. In the comment sections within my own articles and those of other Bleacher Report writers, I have staunchly campaigned for Lowrie's place in the Red Sox lineup in 2011.
Drew Hagerstrom discussed the topic in great depth a few days ago, and judging by the remarks, Red Sox nation is as divided on the subject as it is stubborn. Regardless of the Scutaro/Lowrie position debate in 2011, I am a firm believer in the Cuban defensive wunderkind lurking in Portland.
Jose Iglesias (21 years, 5'11", 175 lbs.) has generated considerable buzz for a player with little more than a year of professional ball under his belt. The likes of Dustin Pedroia and Marco Scutaro heaped superlatives on Iglesias for the defense he showed last year in Spring Training, and many have him ticketed as the bona fide shortstop of the future.
Fun though it is, delving into the world of hyperbolic jubilation over Iglesias' glove work is something I'll try to avoid here. Suffice it to say that Jose's defense rates as "major league-ready" and "plus-plus" by any measure.
More importantly, multiple scouting reports pegged him as reliable as he is eye-popping. In my mind, this quality rates higher than the ability to make SportsCenter, consistency being rare among even the most gifted young shortstops.
Who Will Be The Starting Shortstop Spring 2012?
As bubbly as GM Theo Epstein has been over this kid, Iglesias would seem to control his own destiny. Shortstop being the second-most important defensive position on the field, they are easily forgiven for offensive mediocrity (the late '90s notwithstanding). Therein lies the key to Iglesias' future in the majors.
Jose's body of work isn't large enough to judge his offensive ceiling at this point. He has a little less than 400 total AB at four different stops since fall 2009. By all accounts he has good bat speed, makes decent contact and runs the bases well without being a speedster. But impatience and a lack of power pervade his statistics over the past year.
After a fast start at Lowell in 2010, Iglesias jumped two levels of ball to Double-A Portland. In a little over 200 AB, Jose posted a slash line of .285/.315/.357 before his cup of coffee in the Fall League. While a .672 OPS doesn't exactly elicit thoughts of Nomar, I take care to consider his huge organizational jump and midseason hand injury. In my mind, 2011 is the real audition for his talent.
If Iglesias can produce a line in the .300/.350/.400 range while facing Double-A and Triple-A pitching, I'm sold. Those numbers would push him into the Scutaro offensive range. Couple that with his outstanding glove, and his overall value should trump any other shortstop the Red Sox have under contract.