José Antonio Iglesias Aleman
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 175 lb.
Iglesias defected from Cuba one game into the 2008 World Junior Championship. He had hit .322/.358/.382 for La Habana in 2007-2008, fielding .964 as their starting shortstop. As a rookie in 2006-2007, he was 17 for 85 with 3 doubles and 4 walks. He fielded .939 as a backup at SS to Michel Rodriguez and also played a couple of games at 2B (no errors). After defecting, Iglesias signed a four-year, $8.25 million contract with the Red Sox on September 8, 2009. The scouts were Craig Shipley and Johnny Dipuglia. He was immediately touted as the Sox's shortstop of the future, and while his defensive play has been outstanding, his bat still needs work.
Iglesias started his organized baseball career with the Mesa Solar Sox, hitting .275 with 12 RBI in 18 games in the Arizona Fall League. He broke into the minors with the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League, hitting .350 in 13 games early in 2010. He was then promoted to the Portland Sea Dogs of the AA Eastern League, where he hit .285/.315/.357 with 5 steals in 7 tries in 57 games. He fielded .966 at short. He then hit .269 for the Peoria Javelinas. After the season, Baseball America named him the #52 prospect on its top-100 prospects list; they had just rated him as the best defensive shortstop in AA as well. Only Casey Kelly was ranked higher among BoSox farmhands. He started 2011 with the Pawtucket Red Sox in the AAA International League, where he hit .253 with only 2 walks and no extra-base hits in his first 24 games.
On May 8, 2011, Iglesias was called up to Boston when starting SS Marco Scútaro was placed on the disabled list with a strained muscle. The Sox would have preferred to call up Yamaico Navarro, who already had some major league experience, to back up Jed Lowrie during Scútaro's injury, but Navarro was bothered by an injury of his own. Iglesias made his major league debut on the day of his call-up, playing one inning as a defensive replacement at shortstop against the Minnesota Twins. His next appearance came as a pinch-runner the next day, and he scored his first run. He made his first major league start at shortstop on May 11th, filling in for an ill Lowrie in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, going 0 for 3. In his first major league at-bat the previous day against the Jays, he had struck out but reached base when Frank Francisco's third strike bounced away from catcher Jose Molina; he had scored his second run earlier in the game, coming in again as a pinch-runner. Overall, he played in 10 games for the Sox, going 2 for 6, while hitting .235 in 101 games for Pawtucket.
Iglesias headed into the Sox's spring training in 2012 with a chance to earn the starting shortstop job following Scutaro's departure. However, he lost a battle with Mike Aviles, who showed he was a better hitter, even if José was better defensively. He returned to Pawtucket, but was still regarded as Boston's shortstop of the future. He hit .266/.318/.306 in 88 games for Pawtucket, but had only 11 extra-base hits - 9 of them doubles - and drew a mere 27 walks, feeding concerns that he would not be able to hit enough to hold a job in the major leagues, even though his play on the defensive side of the ledger was excellent (he fielded .966 at short). He stole 12 bases in 15 tries. He was named the 2012 IL All-Star shortstop and Baseball America rated him as the league's 11th-best prospect, between Tim Beckham and Corey Kluber. He played 25 games for Boston, hitting only .118/.200/.191, although he did connect for his first big league homer. It came against J.P. Howell of the Tampa Bay Rays on September 20th.
Concerned over Iglesias's offense, the Red Sox signed free agent Stephen Drew to play shortstop in 2013, but Drew went down with a concussion in the first week of spring training, leaving the door open for the youngster. José hit .294 with 7 extra-base hits in 68 spring at-bats, displaying a much more aggressive approach at the plate, and he got the start against the New York Yankees on Opening Day on April 1st, as Drew had not yet been cleared to return to action. He continued on his spring training course, going 3 for 5 with a run and an RBI as the Sox won handily, 9-2. He hit .450 (9 for 20) in 6 games before being sent down to Pawtucket on April 10th when Drew came off the disabled list. He hit only .202 in 33 games for Pawtucket, but was called back to Boston on May 24th. He found a regular job in the line-up, occasionally spelling Drew at short and starting in place of the struggling Will Middlebrooks at third base. In spite of his lack of hitting in AAA, he seemed to find AL pitchers to his liking, as he managed to keep his average above .400 until early July. He was voted the AL's Rookie of the Month for June on the strength of a .395 average with 4 doubles, 2 triples and a homer, scoring 17 runs. He had an 18-game hitting streak from May 27-June 18th. He was still hitting .330 on July 30th when the Red Sox decided to use him as a trading chip, with his value likely at an all-time high and Drew once again healthy and productive. He was thus traded to the Detroit Tigers as part of a three-team deal that allowed the Sox to get their hands on pitcher Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox. Detroit was clearly worried about a possible suspension of starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta, whose name had been linked to the Biogenesis scandal, a suspension which was confirmed a few days later. Iglesias started at shortstop the rest of the way for Detroit, hitting .259 in 46 games and showing great defensive abilities. When the postseason rolled around and Peralta was eligible to return, José kept his spot while the veteran moved to left field. Iglesias went 1 for 12 in the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics, and then 5 for 14 (.357) against his former team in the ALCS. Overall, he hit .303/.349/.386 in 109 games and was named to the 2013 Topps All-Star Rookie Team after the season. He was 4th in the 2013 AL with 11 times hit by pitch, trailing Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Josh Willingham.
Iglesias got another vote of confidence when the Tigers let Peralta leave as a free agent following the season, confirming him as the Tigers' starting shortstop in 2014. Unfortunately, he was bothered by pain in his shins in spring training and opened the year on the disabled list; the pain was eventually attributed to stress fractures in both legs. The injuries forced him to miss the entire season, a major setback for him and for his team. he was back on the field in spring training in 2015, but suffered another setback on March 8th when he took a ball off his right shin while fielding grounders in pre-game practice and had to be helped off the field. Fortunately, x-rays were negative. He was able to take his position as the team's starting shortstop on opening day, facing the Minnesota Twins on April 6th and went 2 for 4, then followed that with a 4-for-4 performance in his next game two games later, giving the Tigers the sort of production from shortstop that they had sorely lacked in his absence the previous year. In fact, he kept it up for the entire first half, earning a first trip to the All-Star Game. However, the Tigers struggled after a strong start, settling into playing .500 ball and falling well behind the division leaders. The team decided to retool at the trading deadline, sending away a number of veterans, ushering in what was likely to be a long second half. It was in this context that Iglesias got into a shoving match in the dugout with catcher James McCann on August 7th. Neither player wanted to comment on the cause of the fight, minimizing the event and calling it "an internal matter". He finished the year at .300 with 2 homers and 23 RBIs in 120 games.
The Tigers fell back in the standings after a second-place finish in 2016, ending up 5th in 2017 and 3rd but with 98 losses in 2018. Iglesias was the starting shortstop all three years, playing between 125 and 137 games, and hitting between .255 and .269 with 4 to 6 homers each year. It was decent production for a middle infielder with above-average fielding skills, but nothing that stood out, especially when the team's overall offensive production took a huge dip starting in 2017. The Tigers were completely tearing down and rebuilding the team by the end of the 2018 season, and did not make a serious effort to retain him when he became a free agent. He signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds and played a career-high 146 games in 2019, hitting .288 with 11 homers and 59 RBIs. Both of these latter totals were career highs. His batting line looked superficially like an improvement on his last few seasons in Detroit, but in fact it was almost equivalent production, considering the fact he was going from a ballpark that significantly depressed offensive numbers to one that was much more hitter-friendly. He stood out on the team as a strong defender whereas many of his teammates were there primarily for their bat.
He became a free agent again after the 2019 season and on January 6, 2020, signed a one-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles for $3 million, with an option for a second year. The Orioles were also a rebuilding team and were only looking for a short-term solution to give their infield some stability after trading incumbent Jonathan Villar earlier that off-season. He had a better year than anyone could have expected, as he hit .373 with an OPS+ of 160 in 39 games. When an injury prevented him from playing defence, he was the starting DH for 13 games, on merit. This production completely blew out of the water anything he had done before: his highest OPS+ over his previous 8 seasons had been 101! The Orioles knew that this was freakish, and looked to deal him at the trading deadline but did not receive a good offer. However, on December 2nd, they found a taker, sending him to the Los Angeles Angels for two prospects, Ps Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto. The Angels were looking for him to replace incumbent SS Andrelton Simmons, who had become a free agent.
- 2013 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
- AL All-Star (2015)
- Jason Beck: "Avila: Iglesias' days in Detroit likely numbered: GM expects to trade veteran SS by non-waiver Trade Deadline", mlb.com, January 5, 2018.