Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit
By STEVE KORNACKI  |  Last updated 10/2/13
DETROIT -- There's plenty to like about Detroit Tigers rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias. With a .303 batting average, he led all American League rookies. He turns the plays that will someday make him a Gold Glove contender, and his 25 infield hits led the league. Iglesias, 23, is a strong contender for AL Rookie of the Year, along with Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Wil Myers, Rays pitcher Chris Archer and Texas Rangers pitcher Martin Perez. Iglesias definitely brings a lot of things, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. He gets hits, brings more speed, and he gets out of the box fast and gets down the line to first real good. "On defense, he gets to balls that the average shortstop does not. As much as Leyland liked Iglesias during the regular season, Leyland could come to absolutely love him in the postseason because Iglesias skills will be magnified there. Playoff baseball often features tight, low-scoring games, and Iglesias can keep runs off the scoreboard with brilliant plays and scratch them out by beating out a dribbler or bunting over a runner. He can play small ball on a team that finished last in stolen bases in the majors with 35 and depends on power hitters Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez to score. What Iglesias potentially brings into the postseason made the bruised left hand he suffered when hit by a pitch on Sept. 19 critical. The Tigers open their best-of-five American League division series with the Athletics in Oakland on Friday. Iglesias had little problem playing defense over the weekend in Miami, but said it still hurt to grip a bat. He was 0-for-8 against the Marlins. Leyland said on Tuesday that the hand will not be an issue, and Iglesias added, I feel good. Its fine. The speedy shortstop, when healthy, finds ways to score and start rallies. Iglesias nipped Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners in the battle for the most infield hits by finishing one ahead of the future Hall of Famer. Its kind of shocking with him hitting from the right side, Tigers base-running coach Tom Brookens said, and were pleased with what hes hitting. "But he can drag bunt, push bunt and is a hit-and-run guy. And he loves it when we hit-and-run. Brookens agreed that Iglesias is the kind of player who becomes even more valuable in the playoffs. Jose is a very aggressive player, Brookens said, and thats great; you want that. But he still has to learn some things, even defensively. "You just never want to take away the aggressiveness in a player in doing that. Leyland would like to see Iglesias shorten up his swing and not go for the fences as much has he does. He has only three homers in 350 at-bats, striking out 60 times. Still, when I asked Iglesias about shortening his swing, he shook his head and said he doesnt want to in most cases. I just try to be ready for my pitch, Iglesias said. But with two strikes on me, I just try to put the ball in play. Neither Leyland nor Brookens are sure of what his batting average will be over the coming years. Iglesias batted .330 for Boston before cooling off to .259 for Detroit. But just being adequate offensively would be enough with the way he makes plays. Sometimes Iglesias is spectacular, as he was with the oft-replayed charge and flick throw he made to rob Chicago White Sox catcher Josh Phegley of a single. Other times, hes subtly brilliant. Tigers second baseman Hernan Perez made a relay throw behind Iglesias on Friday night in Miami, but Iglesias calmly stepped back to gather it in before quickly tapping his foot on the bag and completing the double play. I try to work on all kinds of plays in practice, Iglesias said. To make those kinds of plays, you have to be ready. And you have to know the hitters, location of the pitch, and the speed of the runners. "I pay attention to every count, every pitch. Hes been a shortstop since he was 6 and played Little League in Havana, Cuba. Its the only position I have ever played, Iglesias said. I would go to the stadium in Havana to watch German Mesa play shortstop. He was unbelievable, and I grew up watching him and learning. But, no, he never came to the U.S. Iglesias defected in 2008 while playing with the Cuban national team in Canada. After hiding out for two days, Iglesias crossed the border into the United States, where he was granted asylum. He signed a four-year, 14.24 million contract with Boston that expires after this season. But he wont be eligible for arbitration until 2016 or free agency until 2019, making him valuable for his affordability, too. Iglesias started the season with the East Division champion Red Sox and then came to the Central Division champion Tigers in a blockbuster trade that saw White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy go to Boston with Detroit sending outfield prospect Avisail Garcia to the White Sox. In Boston, it kind of surprised me that they traded me, Iglesias said. I was doing my job over there. But here, were got a great team with a great bunch of guys who have made me feel comfortable. "Its another winning team -- just with a different name.
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