I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend. The short week wrapped up with Washington lefty Bryan Harper. It was a poor attempt at baseball humor because obviously his brother is the real prospect, not Bryan. Most of the post focused on a couple other things: the Harper brothers’ teammates at the College of Southern Nevada in 2010 and other teams that have drafted or acquired brothers of their highly paid draft picks. It’s not uncommon for that to happen. Bryan Harper may be able to stand on his own as a prospect though, it’s too soon to tell. Today, we pick the series up again with another highly touted Cuban player, Boston’s Jose Iglesias.
Jose Iglesias, SS, Boston Red Sox (2011: AAA Pawtucket, MLB Boston)
Cuba has produced two highly touted, slick fielding shortstops in the last couple years. At the end of the 2009 season, the Red Sox signed Jose Iglesias for a six million dollar bonus. He made his unofficial debut in the Arizona Fall League that offseason, and just after the start of the 2010 season, the Blue Jays signed Adeiny Hechavarria to a major league contract totaling 10 million. They’re about the same age, and Iglesias had to move to second base to accommodate Hechavarria on some national teams.
Hechavarria got the bigger contract, but I think the younger Iglesias will end up being the better player in the majors. Hechavarria is the better defensive player, but both are gold glove caliber. The difference comes in their bats. Not that a gold glove shortstop needs to be a middle of the order hitter, but players still have to reach a certain level at the plate and not be a complete black hole. There are doubts about whether or not both could do that, but it seems like scouts are more optimistic about Iglesias in that regard.
That’s not to say Iglesias is a slam dunk to hit. With Pawtucket in 2011, he only hit .235 and both his OBP and SLG were under .300. I’m not sure if a shortstop that fields every ball hit to the left side without fail would make up for a season at the plate like that. Scouts believe he will be able to hit with good bat control and bat speed, but the power will never be there. His aggressive approach works against him, and low on base percentages attest to that. He’s still young though, and it can take time for Cuban players to quickly adjust to American culture in the upper minors.
Hechavarria’s numbers were actually better this year but still unimpressive. He has the same aggressive approach that prevents him from reaching base often, and he’s not going to hit for power either. His pro career started with Toronto’s Florida State League affiliate, but he was quickly promoted to AA where he improved partially due to being able to make a connection with manager Luis Rivera. In 2011, he was promoted to Las Vegas for a short time where he crushed the ball. It was a small sample size in a great hitting environment, so it’s unlikely that he made significant strides in that short period.
Both players have had recent AFL stints, and 2012 will be pivotal seasons for both. With Marco Scutaro and Yunel Escobar currently handing shortstop for Boston and Toronto respectively, an injury will probably have to occur for either Cuban to get playing time this season. Scutaro is more replaceable than Escobar for sure, but both prospects need to show they’re deserving of becoming ML starters. They’ll both go to AAA in 2012, and Iglesias needs to do much better in his second chance at the level. He made his ML debut in 2011, but it was a very brief cup of coffee.
Tomorrow’s Prospect A-Z entry will obviously be the letter J. Will it be a hot shortstop from Curacao, a toolsy Cubs infielder people can’t stop talking about or a fireballing Royals reliever?