Better know a Tiger: Jose Iglesias

Jose Iglesias turns a double play in game 5 of the 2013 ALCS - Mike Ehrmann

Jose Iglesias joined the Tigers last year, quickly winning hearts with a glove and a smile

A baseball fan progresses through stages of life. When young, he may dream of being a big league player. One magical day he realizes that he is older than the youngest active player. Then comes the sad day when he realizes that he is older than the oldest active player. Jamie Moyer was wonderful in delaying the inevitable for many of us. The next milestone is the day that you are older than the manager. Thanks, Brad Ausmus. Jose Iglesias has caused a new milestone for many of us: when an active player looks younger than your oldest child.

Jose Antonio Iglesias Aleman was born in Havana, Cuba. He was playing Cuba's version of professional baseball at the tender age of 16, and defected from the Junior National Team two years later while in Canada. Let that sink in for a minute. He left his family without knowing if he would see them again. He likely learned a few words of English. He arrived in Canada which looks nothing like Cuba: more prosperous, less tropical, and much more vast. He walked up to a Canadian Mountie and said something like "Defect...Cuba...Baseball" hoping it would start the path to a major league team.

Iglesias was signed by the Red Sox and promoted to Double-A Portland after only 13 games in the New York-Pennsylvania League. A .285 batting average and stellar defense at 20 years old in Double-A led to a ranking as the 52nd best prospect according to Baseball America. The Red Sox promoted Jose to Triple-A Pawtucket where he spent the 2011 season. He was overmatched as shown by a .554 OPS, yet made two brief appearances in Boston. Repeating Triple-A in 2012 gave him time to improve his offense and led to another late-season call-up.

This chart shows any minor league team and season with over 50 plate appearances, and his major league totals. Note that Iglesias has only played 72 games below Triple-A.

Year Age Level Gm PA BA OBP SLG
2010 20 AA 57 236 .285 .315 .357
2011 21 AAA 101 387 .235 .285 .269
2012 22 AAA 88 396 .266 .318 .306
2013 23 AAA 33 133 .202 .262 .319
'11-'13 Maj 144 465 .274 .325 .354

Though Iglesias only played 46 games in Detroit after being acquired in a three team deal, he was named the team Rookie of the Year. His surprising offense production with the Red Sox, and defense with Detroit, led to second place in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Contract Status

Jose Iglesias has one year of service time and will be under team control until 2019. His salary for 2014 is $1.65 million and his defense alone should be worth much more than that.

Keys to Success

Iglesias is not a big man and has dealt with multiple injuries in his short time with the Tigers. First he missed some games in early September with soreness in his shins. Next he was hit on the hand by a pitch and missed a week. Now the shin splints have returned. For Iglesias to contribute his defensive wizardry, he needs to be on the field. And he needs his full speed, as a high percentage of his offense is from infield hits and bunts.

Odd Numbers

Two: His ranking on defense. Not an odd number in a mathematical sense, but since he can do this and this it may be surprising that Andrelton Simmons is ranked number one in defense among shortstops. A full season for Iglesias will allow him to challenge for the top spot.

2014 Outlook

Iglesias will provide tremendous defense and stability up the middle. He will help Rick Porcello take the next step in his progress towards being an ace. His offense will be anywhere from barely acceptable to good. He will appreciate being in Detroit rather than Boston, as he will still not be able to grow a beard.

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