It’s well-known that Iglesias is a great defensive shortstop—easily the best in the organization—but it’s been his offense that’s kept him from being a starter in the big leagues. As Iglesias currently continues to develop in Triple-A Pawtucket, there are plans in place to move him around the infield.
Iglesias will be getting playing time at second and third base in the near future in addition to fielding grounders at shortstop frequently, according to Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal.
“They said I’m moving around, just to get an idea,” Iglesias told MacPherson. “They haven’t told me anything else.”
Well, Pawtucket told Iglesias that he was going to make his first career start away from shortstop on Tuesday afternoon. MacPherson was present for the game and tweeted out some of his thoughts on Iglesias at playing the hot corner.
Brian MacPherson @brianmacp
Iglesias fields a routine three-hopper and throws to first base uneventfully -- his first completed chance as a third baseman.5/21/2013, 5:37:40 PM
Brian MacPherson @brianmacp
Sweet pick by Jose Iglesias going to his left and then spinning and throwing a strike to first. No surprise: He can play third base.5/21/2013, 6:13:20 PM
MacPherson noted in his article that “all indications are that Iglesias will remain primarily a shortstop” and “the work at positions other than shortstop is not a sign that Iglesias is becoming a utility infielder.”
While this is important to keep in mind, it’s also interesting to ponder what the future could hold for Iglesias if he’s able to play positions other than shortstop at a high level defensively. For one, it would certainly open up a series of doors.
The Red Sox are relatively set at second and third base for the moment. Dustin Pedroia is under contract through the 2014 season and there’s an $11 million team option for the 2015 season. Will Middlebrooks is under team control for even longer, considering he just made his major league debut last season.
Depth, though, could turn out to be a problem. The Red Sox don’t really have a major-league-ready backup at third base if anything were to happen to Middlebrooks.
There are a handful of prospects in the minor leagues that could be impactful in the next couple of seasons.
There isn’t a clear-cut replacement for Pedroia either. Pedro Ciriaco is the backup middle infielder for now, but he’s hitting .184/.289/.342 in 19 games this season while playing mediocre defense at best. To say that he’s a replaceable backup would be a major understatement.
If Iglesias could play second or third base well enough, it would definitely increase the odds that he stays with the Red Sox long-term the next time he gets promoted.
But his offense still needs to improve, considering he entered Tuesday hitting .205/.262/.330 in 31 games for Pawtucket.
As I’ve now mentioned twice, offense is Iglesias’ biggest weakness. It’s going to become an even bigger problem at some point this season or definitely next season when Xander Bogaerts—Boston’s top prospect—gets promoted to Triple-A.
MacPherson and his co-worker, Tim Britton, told me in a chat a few weeks ago that “every indication is that the Red Sox want to keep Bogaerts at short as long as possible.” That came after I asked whether it would make sense to transition the top prospect to third base in the wake of Middlebrooks’ offensive struggles.
Bogaerts played a little third base for Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, but has been a shortstop throughout his career.
Because of his size, though, some think that he might be better-suited at third base or at a corner outfielder position in the future.
If Boston plans to keep Bogaerts at shortstop, Iglesias is basically out of the job. This is why these next couple of weeks are so important for Iglesias’ future. If he can handle grounders and routine plays easily at positions other than shortstop, he boosts the likelihood that he’ll eventually be in the major leagues full-time.
If Iglesias can’t play second or third base well, which I think is unlikely, then he’s going to continue to struggle finding time with the Red Sox. Defensive versatility can do a lot of positive things for his career.