A non-roster invitee to spring training, José Iglesias put together a surprising performance for the Cincinnati Reds during 2019.
Few players on the Cincinnati Reds roster throughout the 2019 season had a better individual performance than José Iglesias. A non-roster invitee to spring training, Iglesias found himself into the starting lineup on Opening Day. He took the opportunity and ran with it, leading some fans to believe that the Reds front office should re-sign Iglesias this offseason.
José Iglesias was supposed to be a bench player this season. Widely known throughout Major League Baseball as an elite defensive shortstop, Iglesias was brought to Goodyear, Arizona with the idea that he’d backup José Peraza. An injury during the final week of spring training to second baseman Scooter Gennett changed all of that.
After Gennett came up hobbled following a play on the grass in short-right field during a Cactus League game, Peraza was shifted to second base and Iglesias to shortstop to begin the season. The thought was that the emerging Peraza would have a banner season after leading the team in hits the previous year, while Iglesias provided a steady glove at shortstop.
Oh how wrong we all were. As the season unfolded, it became quite clear that Peraza was not going to follow up his 2018 performance. Not only that, but fans discovered that Iglesias was more than just a solid fielder.
José Iglesias put together a career-year. Hitting .288, he led the Cincinnati Reds in batting average. He also had career-highs in hits (145), home runs (11), RBIs (59), and slugging percentage (.407). Not only did Iglesias bring his bat to Cincinnati, but he put on a defensive clinic by continually dazzling fans with his glove work.
Defensively, Iglesias had a .980 fielding percentage. Curiously, that was his lowest since his All-Star season of 2015 with the Detroit Tigers. Getting 1196.2 innings worth of work at shortstop, Iglesias was responsible for 62 double plays.
For those interested in a more analytical statistic, according to FanGraphs, Iglesias had 8 defensive runs saved – the best of his career and good enough for 7th best in the National League. When it comes to ultimate zone rating (UZR), which takes into account the area of the field that each player occupies, Iglesias was No. 5 in the NL with 5.9.
Iglesias was also clutch at the dish. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Iglesias put up a slash line of .288/.344/.441. When there were two outs, Iglesias swung one of the hottest bats in the league, slashing .293/.327/.433 with 5 home runs.
You’re probably thinking, with a season like that, why only give Iglesias a B? Well, if you dig a little deeper you’ll see some outlying stats. Iglesias only drew 20 walks, the second fewest of his career despite surpassing a career-high in plate appearances (530). Thus the reason for his low on-base percentage (.318) in spite of a .288 average.
Iglesias was second on the team in terms of fewest walks for players with at least 400 plate appearances and was just three clear of Peraza who had 17 walks in 127 fewer chances in the batter’s box. Iglesias has an OPS of .724 which ranks 6th among all Cincinnati Reds starters.
In a day when defense isn’t valued as much as plate discipline and on-base percentage, it’s no wonder that there’s a spirited debate among Cincinnati Reds fans about whether or not to re-sign José Iglesias this offseason.
We’ll see where the Reds front office comes down on this issue in a few months. Given the $5.5M team option on Freddy Galvis, perhaps we’ll have a clearer picture shortly after the World Series is over. For what’s it worth, I think Iglesias put together a fine season and wouldn’t mind seeing him return to the Cincinnati Reds provided he’s not looking to break the bank.