Player-A-Day: Jose Iglesias

Welcome to Player-A-Day. The purpose of this column is to identify interesting major league players who may be fantasy relevant in 2014. We will discuss the real world roles that the player may fill, set a range of potential expectations, identify any wild card factors in play, and comment on how these factors may affect the player’s fantasy value.

Over the course of the offseason, we will investigate a wide range of players from unlikely postseason heroes to free agents with new homes to prospects who might be the next waiver wire stars. We’ll generally focus on players who will be useful fantasy assets but won’t be uniformly owned or cost an arm and a leg. Occasionally, we may cover a high-priced player due to a change in expectations or some other unique attribute that may be overlooked by others.

This The high level

Jose Iglesias enjoyed the best season of his young career at the most opportune time. His strong play allowed the Red Sox to deal him to Detroit at the trade deadline as part of the package for Jake Peavy. He played the role of sleeper agent for the Sox, making the aforementioned critical Game Six error that allowed Shane Victorino to come to the plate with the bases loaded.

Throughout his minor league career, Iglesias was criticized for his combination of mediocre contact skills and non-existent power. That pair of negative marks remained at the big league level, but Iglesias was able to hide them behind a high BABIP and batting average. Iglesias draws strong marks for his defensive capabilities. Free agent Jhonny Peralta is the most likely competition for Iglesias in 2014.

The details

The Red Sox called on Iglesias in 2013 to fill in for Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks, who were dealing with an injury and poor play respectively. During his tenure with the Sox, he slashed .330/.376/.409 over 234 plate appearances, a performance comparable in quality to Ian Desmond‘s season line. There was plenty of reason to doubt his ability to continue producing at that level. Power remained nonexistent with just a .079 ISO while a .379 BABIP buoyed his batting average.

Despite reasons for concern, the overall package was attractive on the trade market since his low strikeout rate promised at least acceptable offense to go along with his defensive reputation. Enter Detroit, which was (correctly) worried that Peralta would soon be suspended as part of the Biogenesis investigation.

After the three-team trade that sent Iglesias to Detroit, he came back down to Earth. The .293 wOBA he posted in 148 plate appearances for the Tigers was much more in keeping with expectations. His walk rate collapsed from bad to terrible (4.7 percent to 2.7 percent) and his strikeout rate unexpectedly spiked above 20 percent.

Detroit will likely lean on Iglesias as its starting shortstop in 2014. The internal options are not any better and the only free agents who are a noticeable improvement are Peralta and Drew. Both are likely to be pricey since they are arguably among the top 10 shortstops in baseball. Peralta may come at a discount due to his PED suspension.

Fantasy implications

You can remove Iglesias from your list in any league that does not roster at least 16 shortstops—generally a 12-team league that does not use a generic middle infielder (MI) spot or a 10-team league with MI. Those in deeper leagues will have the challenge of figuring out where Iglesias ranks among such thrilling options as Zack Cozart, Didi Gregorius and Brandon Crawford.

One reason to be positive about Iglesias is that he has generally posted strong BABIPs throughout his career. Most of his balls in play are grounders, which he complements with a league average line drive rate and above average ability to reach base on infield hits. He’s hit far too many infield flies for a player of his skill set, but if he can improve on that number he could worth rostering as a batting average-only shortstop.

A key to his success in 2014 will be his strikeout rate, which spiked about 7.5 percent after his move to Detroit. His whiff rate also increased about two percent. If he can get that back under control, we could be looking at an empty .280 batting average hitting out of the nine hole. In the Tigers lineup, that should mean above average production in runs. Unfortunately, home runs are not in his skill set and while he shows good speed, he’s never been a threat to steal much more than a dozen bases.

Comparable players range from Adeiny Hechavarria to Alexei Ramirez. Hechavarria was not worth a roster spot in any league last season despite drawing frequent starts while Ramirez was a poor but passable option in a shortstop-deficient world. Since you can bank on a low walk rate and no power, his ranking takes a hit in leagues that use any stats more advanced than batting average.

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Comments

  1. Morgan Conrad said...

    Interesting concept for a column. 

    One major suggestion:

    Put in something very very early in the column about league depth to even consider the player.  For example, in this column, the first line should be, in bold, something like “Ignore Jose Iglesias unless your league rosters 16 shortstops”.  (and maybe something more for AL-only or NL-only leagues)  Saves a lot of time for the readers!

    As a minor suggestion, for at least some players, differentiate between traditional roto leagues and points leagues.  For example, if Iglesias had more steals he’d be more interesting in roto, or if he had more pop he’d be more interesting in points.  (Seems like he has neither so the question is moot in this example)

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