Boston Red Sox: Jose Iglesias Might Not Be the Answer at Shortstop

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Boston Red Sox: Jose Iglesias Might Not Be the Answer at Shortstop
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This weekend came with the news that 21-year-old Cuban prospect Jose Iglesias was to join the major league squad.

Marco Scutaro, who had been previously relegated to backup duty with the emergence of Jed Lowrie, is currently on the 15-day disabled list, as is first Triple-A replacement option Yamaico Navarro.

The Red Sox needed someone to fill a roster spot and unfortunately, it had to be Iglesias, who'll be missing valuable developmental time sitting on the bench.

For awhile now, Iglesias has been perceived as the future shortstop-in-waiting of the Boston Red Sox. Mike Andrews of SoxProspects.com recently gave this scouting report on Iglesias on ESPN: "...phenomenal defensive player in every respect...great range, a plus glove, excellent footwork and fantastic instincts."

I haven't yet had the privilege of seeing Iglesias work in person, so I'll defer to the experts on this one. By literally all accounts, Iglesias' glove is already Gold Glove caliber. If he were to start everyday, his glove would be a plus.

While I don't doubt Iglesias' potential, I'm not ready to anoint him as the franchise shortstop of the future just yet.

No understatement, Iglesias is a poor hitter. Through 24 games and 92 plate appearances in Triple-A Pawtucket this year, Iglesias has a meager .253/.278/.253 batting line, 17 SO, two BB, .239 wOBA and 40 wRC+.

In 376 minor league plate appearances, Iglesias has walked just 17 times and struck out 74 times. He's never homered and his OPS is just .672.

Andrews' scouting report does state that Iglesias "shows extremely quick bat speed, which is a tool that you can’t teach," but he also says, "fans expecting Iglesias to make a major impact offensively in the next few years should not hold their breath."

Iglesias' bat might one day be major league ready, but pointing to 2012 as his full-time landing date might be a little aggressive.

Iglesias is just 21. His offense has struggled with each promotion in the minor leagues. He has little plate discipline or pop, and his minor league sample size (376 PA) would be small even for a player with a history of offensive success.

And this all comes with the fact that the Red Sox don't currently have an issue at shortstop. Dating back to August of last season, Lowrie has been arguably the best offensive shortstop in the American League.

In his 302 plate appearances since coming off the disabled list last year, Lowrie has been a .304/.374/.522 hitter with 12 HR and a walk percentage of nearly 10.0. Pretty good, considering Lowrie has spent this time juggling all four infield positions and various spots in the batting order.

Lowrie has the highest wOBA (.378) of any American League shortstop with at least 100 ABs this year. While the sample size is small and Lowrie is starting to cool off, there are some indicators that Lowrie should be able to maintain success.

Both his career and current walk and contact ratios are above the league average, and Lowrie has been a patient hitter for his entire career.

It's likely that Lowrie's current batting average (.333) goes down as his .385 BABIP normalizes, but he posted a .287 batting average with a .292 BABIP last year, so it's not out of the question to expect a final batting line around .280-.290.

Everyone loves watching great defense. It's exciting and it ends up on SportsCenter's top 10 every week. But offense has always been the most important quality to the Red Sox.

If Jarrod Saltalamacchia was hitting, his defensive issues would be overlooked. But he's only hitting .203, and the Red Sox are exploring other catching options.

Iglesias might very well develop into a reliable big league hitter to accommodate his glove. But that might take a couple of seasons, and it's just not logical to assume he can stay a big league regular until he can at least squeak by offensively.

By then, the Red Sox will have a better picture of Jed Lowrie, who they control through arbitration until 2014. If he continues to hit and stay healthy, it will be hard for the Red Sox to justify trading him to make room for an unproven prospect.

At the very least, the Red Sox could have a very difficult (and good) choice somewhere down the line.

If Iglesias gets blocked by Lowrie, he could be great trade bait for the Red Sox if they look to add another impact starting pitcher in a couple of seasons, but that's for another day.

 

Dan is a Boston Red Sox featured columnist. Follow him on twitter @dantheman_06.

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