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April 2, 2013 at 6:45 AM

2013 Prospect Previews: Jose Iglesias and Henry Owens

Position: Shortstop
2012 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox/Boston Red Sox
2013 Projected Team: Pawtucket Red Sox/Boston Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 23

Strengths: Iglesias’ elite defensive tools and skills are the highlights of his game. The 23-year-old is one of the smoothest and most fluid defenders you’ll ever see out on the diamond. Everything defensively for Iglesias starts with his instincts. He possesses innate ability that just cannot be taught. The shortstop always seems to be moving to the right spot at the crack of the bat, with outstanding vision when it comes to reading the ball off the bat. In addition, his lightening-quick first step and athleticism enable the player to cover a ton of ground. Iglesias’ range grades as plus-plus. The stamp on the defensive package is a pair of soft, quick hands. They allow him to transfer the ball seemingly without it even touching his glove and also react to the various hops or sudden changes in the path of ball. The defense is rounded out by a plus arm, with excellent accuracy whether he is planting his feet to throw or on the move. Overall, he’s an elite defender at the position, who many believe to be the best in the game.

Development Needs: Iglesias’ bat has continued to lag behind his defensive game in terms of being major-league ready. The right-handed hitter generates solid bat speed, but the swing can get messy. Most of Iglesias’ issues have been tied into his approach and pitch recognition. The 23-year-old has made strides with his plate discipline, narrowing down his strike zone over the last couple of seasons and improving the quality of his plate appearances. Iglesias often looks like he is dead set on pulling the ball though. He flashes the ability to sting the ball to the opposite field, but doesn’t consistently look to do so. Iglesias has to use the whole field to be a competent major league hitter. Pitchers typically work him on the outer corner of the plate, with the 23-year-old frequently pulling off the ball or being frozen because he fails to cover the spot with his eyes. Those troubles are compounded by his weakness handling breaking balls. Iglesias usually lunges at them, bringing his hands forward too early and producing a lot of weak contact. Overall, the shortstop’s bat may end up too light to maintain a regular spot, even in a deep first-division lineup.

2013 Outlook: Stephen Drew’s injury has opened the door for Iglesias to break camp with the big club and at the very least begin the season as the team’s starting shortstop. Things weren’t pretty offensively during his late season call-up last year, often looking overmatched and behind the level of pitching. One thing is certain; Iglesias will provide outstanding defense whether with the big club or down in Triple-A. Just about all of 2013 will be about the development of the bat and whether Iglesias can at least show signs of rounding towards a competent major-league hitter. The 23-year-old is likely to struggle and be inconsistent with the bat during Drew’s time on the disabled list. However, it’s valuable experience for Iglesias and a chance to prove he is making strides after the end of last season. The plan initially appeared for the shortstop to get more seasoning in Triple-A, and I expect Iglesias to return to the minors once Drew is fully healthy. This season should be a leading indicator as to whether the shortstop can prove he’s ready for a major league job, otherwise the organization may be headed in a different direction.

Position: Pitcher
2012 Team: Greenville Drive
2013 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 20

Strengths: This left-handed pitcher possesses a highly projectable frame and the type of size to create strong leverage when delivering the ball. Owens is a loose thrower who doesn’t expend much extra energy in his delivery. The 20-year-old’s fastball presently sits 90-93 mph, occasionally touching up to 94 mph. The heater shows late life and arm-side run in the lower tier of the strike zone, and jumps out of his body on hitters due to some deception in his delivery as well. Still having room for growth on his frame, the lefty can potentially squeeze out some more velocity with added strength. Owens’ best secondary offering is presently a curveball that ranges from 66-76 mph. The lefty varies the speed and shape, typically throwing it in the lower band as a “get over” pitch for a strike. The curve is at its best though when thrown 72-76 mph, showing tight rotation and depth through the strike zone when Owens stays above the ball. There’s potential for the curve to round into a plus offering with increased consistency. Overall, the lefty has the package to develop into a mid-rotation-to-better starter as he learns to fully harness his delivery.

Development Needs: Owens is still on the raw side when it comes to repeating his mechanics and using his large frame to throw downhill. The 20-year-old is inconsistent repeating his arm slot, which affects both the crispness and command of his stuff. Owens needs to learn how to spot his fastball down in the strike zone better as well, often working elevated in the upper tier due to the lack of finish in his delivery. The offering gets flat when up, leaving it on an easy plane for opposing hitters to square up. Most of the damage against him comes when he is working above the thighs. The lefty will also fall into bouts of wildness when he is landing early and releasing the heater behind his body. Owens’ curve loses depth during these stretches as well. The pitch will roll to the plate, lacking the sharp break as he wraps his wrist around the ball. There’s a noticeable drop off in his stuff when he gets into these ruts, leaving him inconsistent from start to start or even inning to inning. Owens shows feel for his low-80s changeup, but does presently struggle keeping his arm speed consistent. He tips it off in these instances and the pitch floats to the plate, with little fade. The majority of the lefty’s future growth and progress forward is tied into gaining a better feel for his delivery. Improvement will be necessary as Owens begins to face more advanced hitters, capable of differentiating between pitches in his arsenal more quickly.

2013 Outlook: Owens is set to begin the season in High A, with the placement a good challenge for the 20-year-old to show that he is becoming a more consistent pitcher. The stuff is certainly there for the lefty. This season should be a good look as to whether Owens can push the command of his arsenal. The eight-team Carolina League is typically unforgiving given how often opposing hitters see the pitchers, and Owens will be pushed to make adjustments quickly. I see the potential for some struggles due to the inconsistent nature of his mechanics, but this should stimulate his overall development. Don’t be surprised to see some control issues come to the surface in this environment as well. Owens was able to get away with some mistakes that I feel he won’t be able to this season. 2013 will be an interesting year for the prospect. He’s presently on the cusp of establishing himself as a rising arm within the system, but there are some hurdles in front of him. This year will be about continuing to polish off those rough edges, with the key for him being improvement consistently finishing his delivery.

Photo Credits: Jose Iglesias by Dave Letizi; Henry Owens by William Parmeter

Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen