2014 Player Previews: SS Jose Iglesias

A 2013 midseason acquisition, there is no longer a question of who will play shortstop for the Tigers moving forward, as there was down the stretch and in the playoffs last season. Jose Iglesias is the man. Now the question is, can he develop into an all-around solid hitter to go with his defensive wizardry?

Jose Iglesias 2013 In Review

2013 Stats
BOS/DET 382 1.8 .327 .303 .356 .319 .349 .386 16% 5/2 0 4.1

It was an interesting year for Iglesias, who started out very hot for the Red Sox, but cooled down considerably after his trade to Detroit, where his OPS was more than 130 points lower than it was for Boston. He overall was still a very productive rookie both in the field and at the plate, but how productive he was exactly it was up for debate.

Much of Iglesias's success offensively came from his lofty batting average – he hit .330 in Boston and finished the year with a .303 average. But that was aided in part by a .356 average on balls in play, which was more than 30 points higher than his expected rate, and much higher than what he posted at his upper level minor league stops.

And herein lies the issue. Iglesias, despite being fast, swiped just five bases, so he's not a clear base stealing threat. And given his diminutive stature, he's not made to swing for power, as he's mostly a gap hitter with only three home runs, a number that isn't likely to increase in spacious Comerica Park. Finally, his walk rate came in very low, at less than 4% of plate appearances. Put it all together, and you get an offensive profile driven by average. When he hits over .300, it's not much of a concern. But can he repeat that?

On defense, you need not be an advanced scout or anything more than a curious bystander to realize that Iglesias is gifted with the glove. He has tremendous range and a strong arm, which has already been good for a handful of highlight reel plays. However, while he's able to make the spectacular play, he's also struggled at times making the routine ones, and despite a UZR/150 over 8, he netted out even in saving runs.

2014 Player Projections

2014 Advanced Projections
Service PA WAR BA BAbip OBP SLG wOBA D-Val
ZiPS 520 1.7 .265 .303 .311 .336 .286 7
Steamer 570 1.2 .257 .289 .303 .341 .287 9
Oliver 600 2.0 .261 .304 .311 .341 .292 12

Usually for players with limited experience at the big league level, you expect to see some variance across the projection systems, but in the case of Iglesias, they're virtually all in agreement.

According to them, Iglesias will be a one to two win player, but no more. He'll see a dramatic drop in his batting average, while continuing to maintain the limited walk rate and power he showed in 2013. The unusually high average on balls in play will not only fall, but it'll take a tumble closer to his minor league levels, as opposed to even the expected average from his 2013 balls in play metric.

The difference between whether or not Iglesias will be a one WAR player or a two WAR player will basically come down to his defense, which isn't an unreasonable assertion. A great defensive season, which is obviously what the Tigers are banking on, and what Oliver projects, and he's a two win player. If he doesn't reach that same defensive value, he's closer to a one WAR guy.

It's obviously possible that the projections will be wrong, but anyone that watched Iglesias down the stretch could see the holes in his swing, could see his inability to drive the ball, and his tendency to chase pitches out of the zone. These are for the most part correctable issues, it simply remains to be seen if he's ready to correct them, and will be able to do so in 2014.

2014 Projections come from three different sources; ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver, all publicly available via FanGraphs.com and presented for information purposes only. ZiPS projections come from Dan Szymborski, Steamer from Steamer Projections, a trio of independent academic researchers, and Oliver Projections from Brian Cartwright.