The minor league season has been ongoing for even less time than the major league one, but we would be remiss in our duties were we to avoid discussing the performance of future Red Sox. Because of the limited number of games, the samples are small, but we can take a look at how a few key players have started off the year.
Jose Iglesias, who very well may be Boston’s shortstop in 2012 whether he learns to hit or not thanks to the best glove in the minors at the position, has started off strong. The Cuban import is hitting .308/.400/.308–laugh all you want at the lack of power, but if Iglesias could hit anything close to that in the majors with his glove, he would be worth buckets of money.
The 21-year-old hit .350/.458/.500 in 48 plate appearances with Low-A Lowell in 2010, then, after a promotion that skipped him right past two levels and popped him into Double-A, hit .285/.315/.357 the rest of the way. That line doesn’t look impressive, but in his first season in pro ball, as a 20-year-old at Double-A… well, be impressed, okay? [Edit: Iglesias started the year at Double-A, and went to Lowell for a short stint while recovering from being hit on the hand by a pitch.]
Everyone had a chance to see Iglesias’ glove live during the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game late last year, but that wasn’t enough for me–I’m hoping to head down to Pawtucket in the near future to get a look at it some more.
When we talk about defense for minor leaguers, we are often talking about how good they will become in the future–much like with their bats. Not every player who comes into the majors at 25 years old with plus defensive skills had a glove suited for the majors when they were 20 years old and still learning. Iglesias, on the other hand, is so far ahead of the game defensively that he is one of those rare talents that could succeed in the majors based entirely on his glove right now. His bat is far behind his glove, but it never needs to catch up all the way–as long as it comes on the trip, things will be good.
Yamaico Navarro is another middle infielder who may have a future in Boston, but, unlike Iglesias, chances are good it will be as a utility player. He was promoted just before September call-ups last year due to the rash of injuries Boston was dealing with–the most recent at that stage was Dustin Pedroia going back on the DL and Eric Patterson, who was actually also a center fielder, missing time–but did not perform well during his time in the bigs.
Navarro is expected to be better than the little lost child who roamed around Fenway’s infield, though. He mashed three homers in 58 at-bats in Pawtucket in 2010 after hitting .274/.358/.422 at Double-A over 88 games. That line isn’t blowing anyone away, but as far as future utility infielders go, you could do a lot worse.
He has started off strong in Pawtucket once again, with four doubles in 20 at-bats helping him to a line of .300/.333/.500. He won’t be taking over the shortstop or second base jobs in Boston, even temporarily, but it’s good to see that once Jed Lowrie plays full-time (or ends up on a different team) the Sox should have another solid bench player around to keep a void from opening.
An outfield job will open up in 2012 when J.D. Drew becomes a free agent, and chances are good one of Josh Reddick or Ryan Kalish will end up with the gig. Kalish is the better prospect thanks to better plate discipline, but Reddick has, at times, had a more explosive bat, and is a strong defender in his own right.
Reddick will have to learn to lay off pitches out of the zone if he wants to vault back over Kalish on the depth charts. That sounds simplistic, but given he has been in the minors since 2007, and, if anything, has increased the size of his strike zone, I’m not exactly optimistic he will figure it out. Kalish is the better bet to succeed, as he has improved after a rough start to his pro career. A .252/.305/.405 line in 179 major league plate appearances doesn’t scream productive future, but for a 22-year-old forced into action well before his time, it’s a start.