Is José Iglesias an Undervalued Shortstop?

By Reynaldo Cruz

For those who don’t know much about “Candelita” (his nickname since he was playing the for the Cuban Junior National Team), it is important to notice that he has managed to hit over .300 three times, including the .373 he averaged in the Covid-shortened 2020 season. Although he did not pile up enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title that year, he did rack up 17 doubles to rank second in the American League.

With his 1,000th hit, Iggy rose his lifetime batting average to .278 (.296 for the season), while also putting his at bats per strikeout to 7.5, 7th among active players.

However, beyond highlight reels and his outrageous .981 lifetime fielding percentage at shortstop (ranked 8th all-time and first among active players), the defensive whiz has battled through a journeyman career that has seen him even land minor league contracts along the way. Two stints with the Boston Red Sox, plus journeys with the Cincinnati Reds, the Detroit Tigers (with whom he was selected to the All-Star Game in 2015), the Los Angeles Angels, the Baltimore Orioles, and finally now with the Colorado Rockies have forced Iggy to prove his value for different franchises.

Apart from the contributions he makes with his glove, and his much less appreciated bat, José is also a clubhouse and dugout figure, who supports his teammates all the time and is always rooting for them to do the best they can. That is of course visible in his constant celebration for every Shohei Ohtani homerun during the Japanese phenom’s MVP season in 2021.

He is also well-respected by every opponent, as seen when San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado dared him ball-in-hand to try to get to third base safely and the “battle” ended in a hug after the Cuban got tagged out.

What seems to be hard to understand is how teams have failed to hang on to him. The Rockies signed him only to a one-year contract for 5 million, and will not be expected to retain him, as Ezequiel Tovar, currently playing for the Hartford Yard Goats (Double-A Affiliate) might be getting a September call-up or a 2023 promotion. So, José Iglesias might have to start looking for another team once this season is over. Fair? Not at all, as his consistency has given him only three “bad” seasons with the lumber, all of them with the Tigers, as he hit .255 both in 2016 and 2017, and .269 in 2018. The rest of his career, the Havana-born has had a .271, last year with the Los Angeles Angels, as his worst year with the bat. For a shortstop whose biggest attribute has been his glovework, these are not bad numbers at all.

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