MLB Grade: B+
Players Considered: Jose Iglesias
There are certainly red flags and reasons for fans to be cautious with Iglesias; from the need for improved maturity, occasional defensive lapses, and the BABIP-induced offensive profile. Despite those concerns, Iglesias is a no-doubt MLB shortstop. His defensive skills are among the two or three best in the entire game, and though he has periodic mental lapses, he still makes a ton of plays and solidifies the Tigers left side defense. Offensively, Iglesias has a gift for contact and a knack for picking up infield hits. Arguably the biggest concern with Iglesias remains his proclivity for landing on the disabled list, something that can’t be understated. The Tigers have an All-Star caliber shortstop that most teams would kill for, and the only reason that keeps this from being an ‘A’ is the concern over Iglesias’ durability.
MLB-ready Depth Grade: B-
Players Considered: Dixon Machado
I have maintained a soft spot for Machado since he was signed as a 16-year old. I have always been a sucker for top notch shortstop defense, something Machado has offered since the day he was signed; not to mention his electric right arm. The Tigers have been exceptionally patient with Machado as he navigated the developmental ups and downs to become an MLB-ready player. While I may have a soft spot for the player, that doesn’t mean I am blinded to his real potential. Machado is a second division player at best, and more likely a player that settles into a utility role and hits in the bottom of the order.
Pipeline Grade: B
Players Considered: JaCoby Jones, Hector Martinez, Anthony Periera, Jose Salas, AJ Simcox
Prior to July 31, 2015, this grade would have been considerably lower, but the June addition of Tennessee shortstop AJ Simcox and the trade deadline addition of JaCoby Jones make a world of difference in how the position is viewed at the minor league level. Jones needs another year in the minor leagues, and most scouts are skeptical about his ability to stick at shortstop, but he is a viable big league prospect with easy utility potential. Simcox on the other hand is a legitimate shortstop defender with an aptitude for hitting and controlling the strike zone, giving him a chance to become a quality player. The trio of Martinez, Periera, and Salas remains 4-5 years away from the big league radar, at a minimum, but all three offer considerable potential, and round out the overall strength of the farm system at the position.
Short-Term Risk: Low
Long-Term Risk: Low
The Tigers have the luxury of knowing their shortstop position is locked down by a high-end defender and reasonable offensive performer for the foreseeable future; not to mention they have another outstanding defender that won’t embarrass himself at the plate sitting in Triple-A. That is an enviable position that the Tigers could leverage in many ways and secures them in the low risk category over the next 3-5 years.
Over the long term, whether Iglesias or Machado nails down the position for a decade, the Tigers have the potential to see a stream of players with the capability of impacting the MLB roster at the shortstop position. Even without JaCoby Jones, who won’t stick at shortstop every day, AJ Simcox is an underrated prospect with an MLB future and the young Latin American players are all intriguing. There are few positions where the Tigers can look at the farm and feel comfortable in their long term standing; shortstop is one of those positions.
The Path Forward
The Tigers are poised to do some work on the MLB roster before the 2016 season, and there is a chance they could decide to dangle Iglesias to teams in need of a shortstop. Scenarios abound, including those where he could be dangled to help fill gaps in left field, the starting rotation, or the bullpen. Personally, I remain skeptical that the Tigers will look to move Iglesias outside of a blockbuster deal that they can’t turn down, but they should have some comfort that they could turn the position over to Machado without feeling a significant defensive impact and letting him hit at the bottom of the order. In the end, I see the Tigers staying the course with Iglesias for at least the next couple of seasons, with Machado serving as a potential utility option or trade chip to help bolster another part of the roster.