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August 5, 2011 at 12:14 PM

The Book: Jose Iglesias

SS Jose Iglesias
Date: August 4, 2011
Team: Pawtucket Red Sox

Line: 1 for 4, single, 2 groundouts, lineout

Swing: Iglesias utilizes a compact, low maintenance swing that very fluidly comes through the hitting zone to the point of contact. With quick hands to trigger his load, he generates plus batspeed and is capable of smoothly getting his hands above the baseball against balls up in the zone. This was on display in his first plate appearance of the game when Iglesias easily stroked a fastball in the upper reaches of the strike zone on a line to center field for a lineout. By learning to create a bit more arc in his swing path, that is a pitch that he can drive harder into the left-center field gap with better backspin. Iglesias also shows strong ability to turn on inside fastballs. Able to crisply pull his hands inside the baseball while firmly rotating his hips, this area is where he produces his best power. He hit a screaming line drive foul during his third appearance where he was too quick on the pitch, but showed he can get good wood on balls in that spot and with better timing can produce some pull power into left field. Iglesias’ swing does struggle against balls lower in the strike zone given the level nature of it. This region is where he needs the most mechanical improvement. He squared up a low fastball nicely in his second plate appearance of the game, but came down with his hands to cause the path of the bat to also move downward and drive the pitch on the ground. With work to lead better with his bottom hand when attacking these offerings, he can drive the ball on a line given the batspeed he creates and knack he shows for getting good wood on fastballs.

Approach: Three of Iglesias’ four plate appearances consisted of three pitches or less, but he showed improvement with cutting down on the size of his strike zone. Last season, he would swing at offerings from his eyes to his knees. Capable of getting the bat on the ball due to his batspeed when over-expanding, he would produce some hard contact in these instances, but this type of approach will not play as the level of pitching continues to advance. In this game, Iglesias was willing to zone in on better pitches and ended up putting three balls hard into play, a signal progress is being made. His fourth plate appearance of the game was his most impressive and displayed what his natural ability can do when he is bringing the mental aspect of an approach to the plate. Facing Buffalo’s (NYM) hard-throwing righty John Lujan, Iglesias took a first pitch slider for a strike. His body language at the plate pointed to him being geared up for a fastball, but he was disciplined enough to let the pitch pass. A situation and offering last season in Double-A that he would have either swung through or made weak contact because he was looking to swing regardless of what was coming. Iglesias ended up getting a 94 MPH outside fastball on the next delivery, in which he put a nice, easy swing on to rifle into right field for a line drive opposite field single. It stood out that he was content with taking what he was given and was also able to lead with his hands to produce solid plate coverage. Another aspect he struggled with last season.

Take: Iglesias has looked much more relaxed in the box this season and begun to understand that being selective is the key to producing consistent hard contact. Possessing the physical offensive skills to do so, it is the learning process that is going to grow his offensive game. This is going to take time as he gains experience. Iglesias shows he can hit good fastballs, but his pitch recognition is below-average and this drives his higher instances of weak contact currently. When fooled, he doesn’t typically swing and miss against off-speed pitches due to his solid bat control. This leads me to project him as a hitter that is going to produce a lot of contact at the major league level, but he needs to improve upon keeping his weight back to make that contact of the hard variety. When Iglesias gets out on his front foot because he doesn’t pick the spin of the pitch up quickly enough or he is reverting back to guessing in counts instead of zoning in, his hands also come forward with him. This leads to him dragging the bat to roll over the ball and weakly put secondary offerings into the ground. His third plate appearance of this game was a prime example of this as he got way out in front of a changeup and cued it off the end of the bat to the shortstop. It is important for him to learn to keep himself back so his batspeed remains consistent. Projecting to hit for below-average power, at a peak, he is not going to be able to get out front and still hit the ball relatively hard into play like stronger players do.

While Iglesias’ stat line has been weak in Triple-A this season, the most important take is that the ability and skills are there to be a competent big league hitter. At 21 years old and inexperienced as a professional, he has a learning progression in front of him that comes through repetition. Iglesias has shown signs of beginning to build a professional approach and given his aptitude for the game I see him making good strides as he reaches his mid-20s. Seeing more pitches will push his pitch recognition as well. When laying in his plus batspeed and the way he is able to turn on balls while also covering the outer third when focused on not doing too much, he is going to be a hitter very capable of getting good wood on balls in a lot of spots. The hitch in regards to Iglesias’ offense is that at some point it is going to be very tough to keep him back because of his defense. He is major league ready defensively and after seeing him play the position over the course of this season, he can right now play an above-average major league shortstop. Whether his bat ends up being close enough to transition smoothly will be the question. Looking at things, this view sees Iglesias slowly ramping up in the big leagues during his early career. Growing pains should be expected. But, when he gains a comfort level and applies his experiences, he’s a hitter that I feel will end up becoming a solid-average-to-better hitter for batting average with some doubles power in his peak seasons, while playing an elite shortstop defensively.