2015 Player Previews: SS Jose Iglesias

Tigers fans got a glimpse of the ability Jose Iglesias had in the final two months of 2013, when he put his impressive defense on display. And then 2014 spring training started, and something wasn’t right. Iglesias would end up missing the entire season with fractures in his shins, costing the Tigers a key player, and bringing into questions about his long-term health.

2014 In Review – Jose Iglesias

The 2014 season was a lost one on the field for Iglesias. Everything started in early spring training, when Iglesias began mentioning discomfort in his shins. He was given a week off to rest, which didn’t help, and after a couple of cycles of rest with no improvement, he disclosed that he had been dealing with pain for months.

The Tigers shipped him off to a specialist in Colorado where he was diagnosed with stress fractures in both shins, likely the result of ignoring the pain for too long. Iglesias was shut down for months, with a small trace of hope that he’d be ready to return in late summer, but he didn’t make the sort of speedy progress that would have been required for that, and ended up missing the entire year.

While he was given a clean bill of health, such an injury can be the result of a number of factors, including hereditary ones along with activity-based ones, that create the potential risk of reoccurrence.

2015 Player Projections

2015 Projections
Service PA WAR BA BAbip OBP SLG wOBA D-Val
ZiPS 413 0.9 .253 .294 .298 .311 .271 6
Steamer 475 1.3 .256 .289 .301 .339 .287 7

Without any 2014 data to work off of, the projection systems are basically working off what amounts to a little over 100 MLB games worth of data from 2013, not exactly a huge sample size. His .303 average that year was on the back of an unrealistically high average on balls in play, while he walked very little and didn’t hit for much power.

Both projections forecast that to fall more than 50 points from .356 in 2013 to under .300 in 2015, but his xBAbip in 2013 was .319, so there’s some reason to believe that with his speed and contact ability, he’ll find a way to make that average better than the .250-.260 they’re forecasting.

Outside of that, both expect him to be valuable defensively, but given that both only forecast him to appear in about 70% of games, it’s harder for that defense to compensate for below average offense and create a multi-win player.

The TigsTown Take

A friend recently asked me if we had reason to worry about the health of Iglesias. My response was as follows. There is no reason to worry specifically about the health of Iglesias. He’s been cleared to play and given a clean slate. That being said, shins can be problematic for many people. An injury may look fully recovered after rest, and within a day or two of use, it flares up again. And right now, that’s a risk – we don’t know enough about the details of what caused the shin splints and fractures to begin with, and whether or not what the Tigers have done will remedy the issue. So, much like it’s a risk to count on the effectiveness of an aging pitcher who has logged a lot of innings, it’s a risk right now to count on Iglesias to give the Tigers 150 games at short.

If he’s healthy though, the defense could make huge strides this year, and suddenly some question marks about the pitching staff might dissipate. The likes of Eugenio Suarez and Andrew Romine were serviceable defensively, but they weren’t great. And they certainly didn’t take any pressure off of Nick Castellanos, as he readjusted to the hot corner while they battled for playing time. Iglesias is a plus defender capable of winning a Gold Glove, and being worth multiple wins with his defense alone. That can also impact Castellanos, who might not be asked to do as much, and is more likely to be bailed out by out of zone plays by Iglesias.

But, there’s also reason to be concerned about him offensively, even if Iglesias is healthy. His .300 average in 2013 was pretty empty, he never hit much power at minor league stops and he’s never been a guy that would project to add strength as he aged. The best case scenario is that Iglesias finds a good range in which he hits .270, improves his patience and walk rate, and uses his speed as a threat on the bases. But, it’s probably more practical to expect him to around .250 with a sub-.300 on-base percentage.

2015 Projections come from two different sources; ZiPS, and Steamer, both publicly available via FanGraphs.com and presented for information purposes only. ZiPS projections come from Dan Szymborski, and Steamer from Steamer Projections, a trio of independent academic researchers.

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