Jose Iglesias eager to learn, capitalize on opportunities

Leon Halip

The Tigers' young shortstop wowed during his short time in Detroit last year, but may be primed to be even more impressive in 2014.

If you want to see head-turning plays make an appearance this year, you won't need to look very far. Entering his first full season with the Tigers, Jose Iglesias should provide an abundance of shockers for the foreseeable future. Think The Matrix meets Houdini, and you're off to a good start.

In 2013, the speedy shortstop displayed flashy power with the Boston Red Sox, both defensively and at the plate. His .330 average, .376 on-base percentage, .409 slugging, and .785 OPS in only four months spoke for themselves. Upon coming to Detroit, Iglesias returned to a batting average more consistent with his minor league numbers in Boston. While they showed a lower .259 average, .306 on-base percentage, .348 slugging, and a .654 OPS, his defensive wizardry remained solid throughout.

Iglesias' ability to play to his full potential was partially impeded due to injuries he sustained during the regular season. The bilateral shin splints he developed were a particularly painful issue. Iglesias chalked up the problem to poor training habits he had established in spring training. Running excessively on the sand during the off-season compromised him physically and benched him on several occasions throughout the season.

It's a mistake he will not be repeating. "Absolutely, try not to run in the sand again," he said. "Been doing some treatment for it so I hope I can feel better in 2014 all year long and not get that feeling like last year. You just can't do something you're not supposed to do in the off-season or not work on the right way. Just little things, it's a long season and you gotta learn how to take care of your body. How to eat healthy and also drink lots of water and sleep, and all those little things will help you to recover faster."

The shin splints are one less detail Iglesias will have to worry about this year, and that's a good thing. Clearly Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski saw something in Iglesias that caused him to drop Avisail Garcia off at the nearest port -- the Chicago White Sox's port to be precise -- along with Brayan Villarreal to acquire the young player. While he is a spectacular shortstop, Iglesias also demonstrates an incredible flexibility throughout the playing field, adapting with ease to any position.

This makes him very appealing on many levels, because he is dependable, especially defensively, no matter what position he plays. For a player to possess this kind of versatility at such a young age induces a drool factor that general managers usually dream about.

Now, how does he capitalize on such a gold mine of potential? By following Omar Vizquel around like a lovesick puppy, of course. Never was this more tangible than during the Detroit Tigers annual TigerFest.

Oh, just in case you're wondering, Iglesias is OK with that. "I mean Omar is, man, I try every time I'm right next to him, I'm always asking question," he said. "He's a special player, been playing in the league for a long time. He will be really good for this team, defensively, base-running on and off the field. I'm just glad to have him with me."

In 24 years as a shortstop at the major league level Omar Vizquel won an impressive 11 Gold Gloves, nine of which were earned consecutively. He also holds the all-time career records for shortstops at 2,709 defensive games played and 1,734 double plays turned.

Iglesias' eagerness to learn how Vizquel became so skilled at his position should translate into more speed on the bases and ridiculously awesome defensive plays. His batting average will take more time to develop so don't expect him to be putting up numbers in the same ballpark as Miguel Cabrera or Victor Martinez, at least not in the immediate future.

Still, while Iglesias was brought on because of his glove work and not his batting average, it doesn't deter him from developing both. Also, knowing where he is positioned definitely helps him focus on specific areas for improvement.

"I wanna say it's [a] more stable year, you know," Iglesias said. "Now I know where I'm gonna start with and I hope I can finish with, and I hope I can help this team a lot more. And you know, don't try to do too much, try to do my little things. Be on base, playing the defense; help this team to win in anything I can."

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