By Juan Paez
Throughout his career, José Iglesias has been known mostly for his defense, with his offense constantly taking a back seat. However, his numbers have always spoken of a consistent hitter who enjoys a lot of contact and can connect on a good amount of doubles. The 2022 season, despite the fact that injuries have not left him alone, was not the exception that broke that trend.
During Spring Training prior to this campaign, the Colorado Rockies signed “Candelita” to a one-year, $5 million contract. The pact paid off, as Iglesias finished his year with 118 games played, 128 hits and a .292/.328/.380 line, with a .708 OPS.
Aside from those numbers, the Cuban infielder started all of his games (116 as a shortstop, two as a designated hitter) and hit 30 doubles for the first time since 2018 (31). At the same time, blasted three home runs, drove in 47 runs, scored 48 times, took 17 bases on balls and struck out only 56 times.
Speaking of his great ability to hit the ball, Iglesias recorded a contact percentage of 86.8 percent, the highest for him since 2016 (89.5 percent). Also, he struck out (on average) once every 7.8 legal at-bats. Had Candelita taken the necessary number of plate appearances to appear in the average leaders, his contact percentage would have been the best in the National League and fifth-best in the majors; his strikeout-to-walk ratio would have finished as the third-best in the Senior Circuit and seventh-best in all of baseball.
Iglesias was consistent virtually all year. In every month except June (.264) and the fraction he played in September and October (.080), he batted at least .300 average. July was his best, hitting .330/.362/.466, with six doubles, two home runs and 15 RBIs, a performance that included a six-RBI game (July 13 vs. Padres).
While alternating with Garrett Hampson and Alan Trejo at shortstop, Candelita missed action due to injuries in different areas of his body: hamstring, head, foot and hand. The latter, in his left hand, came while he was taking a swing and was the one that took the most time, as he did not play between September 5 and September 27. When he returned, he appeared in four games before the end of the regular season.
Iglesias, who surprisingly was not traded before the trade deadline, was one of the Rockies’ stalwarts with runners in scoring position. Despite only registering 118 games, the Cuban was the fourth Colorado player with the most hits in that situation (35), in which he also had nine doubles, a home run, 40 runs batted in and a tremendous line of .354/.402/.475.
At the end of the World Series, Candelita (who will turn 33 on January 5) became a free agent again. He is currently looking for a job for 2023, something that might not be too difficult for him to get, thanks to his very good display of value in this year’s season with the Rockies.