By: Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
Jose Iglesias, Shortstop, Detroit Tigers
2014 season (Majors): Injured
2013 season (Majors): 109 G, 350 AB, .303 BA, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 5 SB, .735 OPS
Signed as an international free agent by the Red Sox in 2009, Jose Iglesias initially broke into the big leagues as a 21-year-old in 2011, but it wasn’t until ‘13 that he became a household name with an enormous first half. Since being traded to the Tigers in a three-team deal just before the Trade Deadline that year, however, it’s been a tough road for the promising young shortstop. But a healthy return could be huge for Iglesias and the Tigers in 2015.
Known mostly for his defense, Iglesias began the 2013 season with the Red Sox and went 9-for-20 with two doubles in six games, but despite the success he was optioned back to the Minor Leagues with Stephen Drew returning from injury. Iglesias cooled off in Pawtucket, hitting just .202 in 33 games, but when Will Middlebrooks went on the disabled list, Iglesias returned and immediately picked up where he left off. He went on to post a .318/.366/.395 slash line in 57 games for the Red Sox before he was the focus of the Tigers at the end of July.
Iglesias got off to a reasonable start in Detroit with a .294 average and .348 on-base percentage in August, but tailed off to end the season as recurring shin issues hampered him at the plate. Those issues resurfaced in a big way last season, and a CT scan discovered that he had stress fractures in both shins. After missing the year to heal, Iglesias was anxious to return to action this spring … and then he was struck in the shins by a liner from teammate J.D. Martinez in practice.
Fortunately, Iglesias looks to have been able to recover quickly from the bruise and has returned to action. So how will the shins hold up in 2015? That’s anyone’s guess, but after recently playing in back-to-back games, the shortstop reported no pain, so that’s a start.
When healthy, Iglesias offers gap power and a high average and on-base percentage. He could hit either at the top of the order in the two-hole, or begin the year hitting ninth as the Tigers ease him back into action. Iglesias has also always been an elite defender at short, grading at or near perfect my most scouts and metrics — though the metrics are from a small sample size. Most reports are that Iglesias hasn’t lost a step in the field, so it appears — at least for now — the shins are not holding him back.
After giving up highly touted prospect Avisail Garcia (who has had injury issues himself in Chicago) in the trade, the Tigers still have hopes that the 25-year-old can man the shortstop position for a long time.
The 2015 season will be an enormously important one in Iglesias’ career. After the year of rest and rehab, can he continue to take steps forward and return to his ‘13 form in which he finished second in the voting for American League Rookie of the Year, or will the shins continue to be a problem and he regresses? With his club firmly believing that he can endure a starter’s workload in ‘15, Iglesias is worth keeping a very close eye on as potentially one of the best young shortstops in baseball.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.