I was lucky enough to attend Jacoby Ellsbury‘s first major league game. He came up from AAA on June 30, 2007. In the third inning he hit a normal grounder that Rangers’ shortstop Michael Young fielded and threw to first without incident. Ellsbury beat it out for his first big league hit. I remember thinking, ‘If everyone were that fast baseball would be broken.’
It can exciting when a top prospect comes up for the first time and fans can see part of the franchise’ future at the present hour. Today the excitement begins anew, or so it seems, as Marco Scutaro‘s as yet unnamed injury has brought top prospect Jose Iglesias up I-95 to Boston. As of this writing the nature of Scutaro’s injury has not been released but numerous reports are saying Scutaro will have to go on the Disabled List and Iglesias will be the player called up to take his place. The Red Sox likely would have called up Yamaico Navarro, who is hitting a very impressive .329/.436/.612 in AAA, instead, but he suffered an oblique strain last Tuesday and had to be placed on the disabled list.
What are the Sox getting in Iglesias? Start with the good. By all accounts, he is a stellar defender at shortstop. I recall Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus’ prospect guru, graded his defense as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, but I can’t seem to find that in print anywhere. It may have happened on the BP Podcast. I did find an article where Mr. Goldstein calls Iglesias, “the best defensive player in the minors,” and that gets the point across just fine. I saw Iglesias play this past Spring Training (discussed here) and my non-scouting savvy eyes were very impressed. It’s fair to say we can expect well above average glove-work from Iglesias should he see the Fenway Park infield.
Hitting is another matter. Iglesias has spent this season in AAA with the Paw Sox, amassing 89 plate appearances in 24 games. During that time he has hit .253/.278/.253 with two walks. He has shown no power and, at least so far, very little patience. This jives with what BP’s PECOTA projection system predicts should he reach the majors this season: a line of .244/.282/.333. That more or less splits the difference between Iglesias’ time in AA where he hit .295/.339/.379 in 276 plate appearances and this season. We’re not talking about a player who is going to come in and light it up at the plate.
Iglesias is only 21 years old, so he is not a fully formed offensive product. Scouts expect him to improve at the plate going forward (though how much is certainly up for debate), and I’m certain the Red Sox will focus on improving his plate discipline. But given his size and swing, it’s exceedingly unlikely he’ll ever hit for much power. He has no extra base hits this season and has never hit a home run in 365 minor league plate appearances as a member of the Red Sox organization. What I’m saying: don’t hold your breath waiting for that Daniel Nava moment.
So, what are the Red Sox getting in Iglesias? A very good defensive shortstop who is still learning how (and when not) to swing the bat. It’s safe to say Iglesias, more than Ellsbury when I saw him in June of ’07, will need to develop more fully as a player. But that doesn’t mean he, like the June ’07 Ellsbury, can’t be a productive and exciting player to watch.