Analyzing and predicting baseball players is like any other endeavor in life: it is very easy to focus on the things you get right, and far too easy to forget or ignore the things you get wrong. Trying to learn from ones mistakes isn't always fun, but if you are going to improve and refine your analysis over time, going back, identifying your mistakes, and learning from them is absolutely necessary.
So here's one guy I think I was wrong about: Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias.
If you'll recall, Iglesias was signed by the Boston Red Sox as a Cuban defector back in 2009. At the time, he was seen as an outstanding defensive shortstop. There were mixed opinions about the bat. The Red Sox said he had quick wrists, a compact swing, and would hit for good averages and on-base percentages. Sources from other teams were not as enthusiastic and felt his lack of power was a huge handicap.
He hit .285/.315/.357 in 221 at-bats for Double-A Portland in 2010. This was enough to give both sides ammunition: he hit for a decent average as the Red Sox hoped, but his on-base percentage was disappointing (he drew just eight walks) and he seldom hit the ball with authority. He moved up to Triple-A Pawtucket in 2011 and was even worse, hitting just .235/.285/.269 in 357 at-bats.
I have to admit I was pretty skeptical at that point, although he was just 21 years old and still had some time. I gave him a Grade C+ in the 2012 book, noting that "his offense is dismal" but that "given his background as a Cuban import, Iglesias may have more growth potential than you may otherwise think. His glove will give him a long career, but he has to hit a little to play regularly."
2012 wasn't much better: .266/.318/.306 in 353 at-bats for Pawtucket. He was even worse during 25 major league games, hitting .118/.200/.191 in 68 at-bats. Twas a small sample of course, but it fit right into the developing narrative (that I bought into) that he would never hit.
"Is his defense good enough to overcome such a lousy bat?" I wrote. "Iglesias will not help your fantasy team" I concluded, although I did add one cover-my-ass caveat "in the long run it is possible that he will improve enough with the bat to hit .280 or something, though I can't see much SLG or OBP on the way."
That's a lesson in prevarication right there. Follow that example well, young ones. I wrote that yes, but if I'm honest, did I really believe that he would turn into the .280 hitter? No, I didn't.
Iglesias hit poorly again in Triple-A in 2013 (.202/.262/.319 in 119 at-bats) but ended up in the majors anyway during a roster crunch. He suddenly turned into Luke Appling, hitting .330/.376/.409. in 63 games, 253 at-bats.
"Quick, trade him now while his perceived value is high and before his BABIP crashes" everyone said. And the Red Sox did just that, sending him off to Detroit in the big Jake Peavy deadline trade. The bat evaporated (as I think everyone but the Tigers expected) again at .259/.306/.348 down the stretch for Detroit.
Iglesias missed the entire 2014 season with stress fractures in both legs (ouch!). But he's come back healthy in 2015 and very effective, hitting .306/.349/.380 through 389 at-bats. His wRC+ is a tick above league at 101; combine that with the impressive defense you get 1.7 fWAR.
Now, you could say that his BABIP luck is holding again this year and regression will come. Perhaps so, but you'll note that his 2015 slash line is virtually identical to his composite 2013 slash line (.303/.349/.386, wRC+102) between Boston and Detroit. He's hit at his present rate for two years going now, sandwiching the injury lost season. Throwing everything together and he's hitting .289/.336/.367 in 813 career at-bats, with a fWAR of about 2.3 in 162-game notation.
That's not a superstar but it is a workable regular and he's just 25.He could grow further from here, but even at his current level he can be a regular for some time to come.
You know who was right about Jose Iglesias? The Red Sox scouts were in 2010. Right now he is the player that the scouts thought he would be.