Red Sox Do Smart Thing, Option Iglesias

This morning, the Boston Red Sox optioned Jose Iglesias to Triple-A. Given that he hit .235/.285/.269 in 387 plate appearances during his time in Pawtucket last year, this seems like a pretty obvious decision. While Iglesias has defensive skills that suggest he can have value even if he doesn’t ever develop into much of a hitter, there’s still a level of minimally acceptable offensive performance to make the big leagues, and it’s not clear that Iglesias currently crosses that level.

Even if we accept that Iglesias is a better hitter than his numbers last year indicate, ZIPS still projects him for just a .268 wOBA as a big leaguer this year, or about the same level of production provided by Alex Rios and Adam Dunn in 2011. Even if he was the best defensive shortstop in the game right now, that level of offense would mean he’d still top out as about a +2 win player. The upside for this skillset is basically Alcides Escobar, who posted a .282 wOBA and +10 UZR last year, and was worth +2.2 WAR in 598 PA. In reality, we’re dealing with a hitter who would need to improve significantly to get to a .282 wOBA, and projecting him as a +10 defender as a rookie is extremely aggressive.

If the Red Sox had no alternatives, Iglesias’ defensive value means that he probably wouldn’t kill them, but they do have alternatives – the perfectly useful tandem of Mike Aviles (.311 wOBA by ZIPS) and Nick Punto (.300 wOBA by ZIPS). It’s being reported that Aviles is going to be the starter, but in reality, we’re probably going to see the two share playing time, considering that they’re perfect complements for each other. Punto is a left-handed defensive specialist, while Aviles bats from the right side and is more of an offensive threat. Even if Aviles gets most of the starts, Punto can spell him as a defensive replacement and start on days that the Sox put GB starters Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz on the mound.

During Aviles’ career, he’s been worth +2.5 WAR per 600 PA, while Punto has racked up +2.6 WAR per 600 PA during his time in the big leagues. While it’s reasonable to think that the 34-year-old Punto and 31-year-old Aviles might both be on the down side of their career, a job share between the two should project for between +1.5 and +2.5 WAR on the season, and let the team maximize their individual strengths based on the days match-ups.

In other words, if you think Iglesias is an elite defender right now, and will hit better in the Majors this year than he did in the minors last year, then he’d be about as good as a Punto/Aviles platoon with little upside beyond that.

Despite the mini media storm surrounding this decision, this really was a pretty easy call. Iglesias can hang out in Triple-A and work on improving his offensive performance while the Red Sox get similar or better production from the two useful veterans they already had in camp. If either gets hurt or performs poorly, Iglesias will be considered for a call-up, just like every other not-quite-ready-for-prime-time prospect in the sport.

In the end, this whole thing just seems like a manufactured story. The Red Sox have two guys on the roster capable of providing value at shortstop, and a shortstop prospect who probably can’t hit enough to justify a spot on the roster. That the kid got sent down shouldn’t really qualify as news.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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bonestock94
Member
bonestock94

I don’t understand why anyone is clamoring over Cesar Izturis 2.0

Sleight of Hand Pro
Guest
Sleight of Hand Pro

who is clamoring? i never hear anyone mention iglesias, much less sing his praises. honestly i had forgotten all about him until this article.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Approximately half of the Sox fans in New England.

Sleight of Hand Pro
Guest
Sleight of Hand Pro

well if you live in new england and/or follow red sox media, thats a you problem.

Sandy Kazmir
Member
Sandy Kazmir

Nice One Shot Kill, Sleight

Mike
Guest
Mike

It stems from three things really:

1. Having not had a long-term answer at shortshop since Nomar was traded in 2004.
2. Having heard for the past two years that Iglesias is the shortshop of the future
3. Bobby V saying how much he liked the kid and suggesting he should be on the Opening Day roster

Every team’s fans overvalue their own prospects. This is an example of the perfect storm with a touted prospect who fits the perceived positional need, coupled with a manager who suggests that the hype may be justified, which validates that valuation.

Afrogoose
Guest
Afrogoose

Thanks, Sleight of Hand Pro. I’m glad you could take the time off from your pizza shop to post here.

CampBrice
Guest
CampBrice

Because many think he can be Ozzie Smith 2.0

Steve
Guest
Steve

Except Ozzie Smith could actually hit a little.

He is more likely Rey Ordonez 2.0, and the only reason anyone has ever even heard of him is because he plays for Boston.

EarlSweatshirt
Guest
EarlSweatshirt

“and the only reason anyone has ever even heard of him is because he plays for Boston”

Or, because he has as close to an 80 grade glove at the SS position as any prospect in the past decade. I think Keith Law was the one who said watching him take infield is the equivalent to baseball porn. He’s a flawed player, but guys who have a singular great tool (whether it’s power, speed, defense, etc.) always have a bit of hype…complaining about some Boston bias is ignorant and sounds pathetically whiny.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Actually, Ozzie Smith could not really hit. .262/.337/.328 stat line is weak even for an 80’s SS. Most overrated player of all time.

Nathan Nathan
Member
Nathan Nathan

Dan,

“Most overrated player of all time.” Seriously? More overrated than Juan Gonzales or Ruben Sierra? And who was overrating him? He never placed higher than 2nd in the MVP vote and won just one Silver Slugger award.

Smith actually hit pretty well, particularly after 1984 when he wasn’t injured. He posted 8 seasons with wOBA over .320 including one with (1987) with a wOBA over .350. Those numbers are good for a league average defensive shortstop, nevermind a “Greatest Defender of All Time” candidate.

And offense is more than just batting, it’s baserunning, particularly for a low power/high OBP player like Smith. 580 Steals with a CS% of 20.0 means he added a lot with steals alone. As a result, Smith had 8 seasons with a wRC+ over 100. That is, he was a better than average offensive player in 8 seasons. Even with his weaker pre-1984 seasons considered, he was still a 94 wRC+ player for his career. That is, average Ozzie Smith was just 6% off the average hitter — for any position.

Smith’s bat, averaged across his career, would be good enough to get a starting position with average defense. With great defense, well, you get a Hall of Fame player. Even if you think TZ overrates him by, say, 90 Runs Saved, he’s still a 60+ WAR player.

mbrady16
Member
mbrady16

Yea, Tampa’s a real dream in comparison to New England right Sandy?

Sandy Kazmir
Member
Sandy Kazmir

I only lived in Tampa briefly, spending more time in Orlando, but I remember the winter’s generally being a lot nicer, though this year’s wasn’t so bad. I’ve never lived in New England, and Lawds willing, I’ll never have to.

mbrady16
Member
mbrady16

I was being sarcastic. Tampa sucks. I’d much rather be in the Boston area aside from the weather.

The media is more annoying sure, but that’s mostly because in Florida nobody cares about the Rays (except you it seems).

aquanarc
Member
aquanarc

Give me a break. Iglesias is the greatest defensive player of all time.

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