|Jose Iglesias looking to rebound in second half||07.18.11 at 2:15 am ET|
Jose Iglesias is regularly referred to as “the shortstop of the future” for the Red Sox. But the estimated date of his arrival may have shifted.
In only his second professional season since defecting from the Cuban junior national team, Iglesias has struggled at Triple-A Pawtucket. Before suffering a concussion on July 3, Iglesias was hitting .227 with a .275 OBP, .245 slugging mark, .519 OPS, four doubles and 27 RBIs in 248 plate appearances.
No one questions that Iglesias has a stellar glove that can change games. That being the case, it is his offense that will ultimately determine what kind of big league impact the 21-year-old might have in the majors, and when he might be ready to compete at the highest level.
Despite Iglesias’ poor numbers, PawSox hitting coach Chili Davis expects a stronger performance in the second half of the season based on what he saw in the weeks preceding the player’s injury.
Iglesias had just one extra-base hit and five walks in the first two months of the season. In June, Davis suggested, Iglesias showed signs of progress in a month in which he walked five more times while hitting three doubles.
“The difference I saw from the month of May to June and going into this month before he got hurt, was I saw a guy that started trusting his swing more,” Davis said before last Saturday’s game against Buffalo. “He became more confident at the plate. I think he was getting beat a lot in April and early May, getting tied up a lot. He was more of a defensive hitter. I see a kid now who’s ready to become more of an offensive hitter.
“One of the big signs is he’s taking pitches now that he used to swing at. And he’s getting pitches to hit and he’s hitting the ball hard. And he’s not just swinging at the ball, he’s swinging through the ball. He’s trying to hit the ball hard somewhere. So I guess the biggest change I see is just more confidence, more assurance that, you know, he can play here.”
But was starting in Triple-A the right decision? In 2010, the first season of his four-year, $8.25 million contract, Iglesias (aside from a brief rehab stint in short-season Single-A Lowell) spent most of the year in Double-A. He hit .285 with a .315 on-base percentage and 13 RBIs.
Both Davis and PawSox skipper Arnie Beyeler stood by the decision to start Iglesias in Pawtucket this year.
“You’re always challenging these guys and you want to raise the bar for them and just see how they respond,” Beyeler said. “He definitely can compete at this level. Just let him go out there and get his reps and then continue to improve.”
An injury to Marco Scutaro led to Iglesias’ first big-league call-up earlier this year, during which the shortstop went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. He was solid in the field, but the Sox reiterated throughout his big league stint that he would need more time to develop, a notion that has been borne out since he returned to Triple-A.
Davis expects Iglesias to see major league action again this season, but he foresees different results. The pair has worked to get Iglesias to drive the ball on a more consistent basis. The PawSox hitting coach maintains that the shortstop possesses gap power with an ability to hit the occasional home run.
“We just learned to square the ball a little better, catch the ball out front, hit line drives and maybe if we’re fortunate we’re going to get some doubles out of him, with his speed maybe some balls get in the alley and we’ll get a couple triples,” Davis said. “He’s strong enough, but eventually once he starts maintaining that confidence level, he’s going to get a pitch or two that he’s going to hit out of here, but I don’t expect to see him trying a whole lot.”
Though he has seen major league action, one milestone left unchecked on Iglesias’ to-do list is to hit his first professional home run. In 536 career plate appearances, Iglesias has yet to trot around the bases for a Red Sox minor league team. Though he certainly would not complain about hitting one, Iglesias isn’t anxious for his first longball.
“I haven’t hit it yet,” Iglesias said. “I’m waiting for it, but I’m not looking for it. I’m just focused on the middle of the field and playing the game.”
More importantly, Iglesias is focused on returning from his injury. Though he has yet to take the field again, Iglesias is fielding grounders and positioning himself for what the team hopes will be a strong second half of the season.
“He’s going to be better,” Davis said. “I’m betting that barring injuries that he comes back and has a better second half than he did a first half. The whole key with him is not necessarily numbers here, it’s the quality of the plate appearances.
“And if we can get him to the point where he’s producing quality plate appearances two to three times a game, in September if they call him up, which they probably will, then he goes up there in a confident state knowing that, ‘Hey, I can hit and I’m going to be back to where I was as a kid on the Cuban national team.’ ”
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