Jose Iglesias has yet to appear in an official regular season professional baseball game. And as you'd expect not a lot is known about him. We were able to gain some preliminary thoughts from his Arizona Fall League performance, and we saw some things to definitely be excited about. One of them is his incredibly flashy and smooth defense. But will he be more than a player who wows you with the glove then inspires you to take a bathroom break while he's at the plate? That is still up in the air.
Iglesias is not an imposing figure at the plate and he lacks the pure strength of most major league players. At times, he can be overpowered by good, hard fastballs, especially ones up in the zone. But he still gives himself a fighting chance by having solid swing quickness and surprisingly good bat speed.
My first impression of Iglesias was that he was a guy who had an exaggerated chopping hand path to the ball in an effort to stay short and quick. This is not a good way to produce a lot of bat speed, nor is it a good way to have the bat on plane with the pitch for a long time; both reduce his chances of a high contact rate.
In the Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars game, Iglesias simply looked over matched. His small loading pattern didn't give him enough time to reach a max-load in time, and he had to push with everything he had to catch up. And catch up he did not. Iglesias is not a particularly patient hitter. He's also mostly a pull hitter. He struggled on off-speed pitches away in the AFL as well. These are certainly things to keep an eye on.
But as time went on in the fall league, it seemed Iglesias made some adjustments, which is something you love to see in a young prospect (he was born on 1/5/1990).
Over time, Iglesias' lower body has grown on me. Starting with weight on your front leg and pushing forward to get momentum and a "giddy-up", as Iglesias does, usually is a good way to get to the fastball, but you'll lose fractions of reaction time for off-speed pitches and have trouble tracking the ball as long as possible. Iglesias offsets this by staying fairly centered on his rear hip as he moves forward, and he never lets himself get too far onto his front leg.
Iglesias does a good job of coiling inward with his front knee. He couples that movement with a short stride, which prevents him to from shifting on his front side too early. Iglesias is a weight transfer hitter. He relies on momentum and small muscles on the front side to gain added bat speed -- different from weight-shift hitters, who generally stay tall and loaded on their rear leg before unleashing from their rear hip. A player of his stature needs all he can get in terms of energy produced, and his weight transfer allows him to smoothly and forcefully exert energy without expending too much effort.
As I touched on earlier, Iglesias has a very small loading pattern. His stroke is short but it lacks the length and stretch to produce above-average bat speed. Against hard fastballs, he has to rush to catch up, throwing off his swing mechanics.
Iglesias' "static stretch" type load -- similar to a static stretch of a muscle -- forces him to stop his barrel, robbing him of the free bat speed that a continuously moving barrel offers. He gets the barrel though by having quick and strong wrists. And now that he has removed his downward chopping hand path, he is much better at plane matching the barrel to the pitch.
His top hand is slightly over-gripped but it comes back to close to a neutral position when he loads his upper body. This type of grip allows him to be strong to the ball on his pull side, and generally leads to a slice when he's hitting to the opposite field. But with Iglesias' offensive game relying more on speed and base hits than long drives, this might actually be a good thing for him. Balls hit up the middle will slice away from the center fielder towards the right center gap, and balls hit to right field will slice towards the corner -- increasing his chances for extra-base hits.
Iglesias is a player who grows on you the more you watch him. He does not profile as a big time major league bat, but he should not be a team killer. You can see a little bit of Omar Infante or Yunel Escobar in some parts of his swing, which does bode well for his chances to succeed at the major league level. At the same time, his small stature and smaller loading pattern do not bode well for him ever hitting for a lot of pop. He's a strong low-ball hitter. And if he can maintain his swing quickness and a high contact rate by attacking the ball down and laying off the pitch up, his outstanding defense will make him a very valuable major league player.