Jose Iglesias won’t hit like Trevor Story, but Rockies like his defense at shortstop
Colorado’s rotation depends on getting groundball outs
The Denver Post
A Rockies pitcher’s best friend is a groundball.
Last season, Colorado starters induced 85 groundball double plays, the most by any rotation in the majors. The starters’ 45.3 groundball percentage ranked fourth.
That’s why one of the club’s most important offseason moves was signing veteran shortstop Jose Iglesias to replace two-time all-star Trevor Story, who is now playing second base for Boston after signing a six-year, $140 million contract.
“Replace,” in this case, is a misnomer. There’s no way that Iglesias will replace Story’s power at the plate or his athleticism in the field or on the bases, but manager Bud Black is confident that Iglesias can hold his own.
“He’s been a very solid major league player, especially on defense,” Black said. “And his offense, at times, has been sneaky good and sneaky productive.”
Iglesias, 32, signed a one-year, $5 million deal. He’s keeping the seat warm for prospect Ezequiel Tovar, who’s viewed as the Rockies’ shortstop of the future. Tovar, 20, will begin this season at Double-A Hartford. After shining as a non-roster invitee at spring training, it’s possible Tovar could make his big-league debut late this season.
Black, however, expressed faith that Iglesias will be a positive force in 2021.
“This guy knows how to play and he’s got great instincts,” Black said. “He plays with joy. We’re right up there amongst the league leaders in groundball rate, so we need defense. We’ve had that over the years here. That’s been a big part of our success when we’ve played well. So adding Jose was important.”
Iglesias has played for the Red Sox, Tigers, Reds, Orioles and Angels in his 10-year major league career. He signed with Boston in 2009, coming out of Cuba with a reputation as a solid, sometimes brilliant shortstop. He finished second to Tampa Bay’s Will Myers for the 2013 American League rookie of the year, though he was traded to Detroit in a three-team deal at the July deadline.
He missed the entire 2014 season because of stress fractures in both of his legs, but he was an all-star for the Tigers in 2015 and was their starter for four seasons.
Iglesias hit .271 last season. He played 114 games with the Angels, but they released him on Sept. 3. The Red Sox swooped him up and he played well for them, mostly at second base. He hit .356 with a .914 OPS in 23 games, but because he joined Boston after Sept. 1, he was ineligible for the postseason.
Iglesias’ best overall year at the plate was in 2019 with Cincinnati when he slashed .288/.318/.407 and hit a career-high 11 home runs. If he can produce something similar this season, the Rockies will be pleased.
But, clearly, the Rockies signed Iglesias for his glove work.
The Rockies won only 74 games last season, but judging by the Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) metric, the Rockies’ infield defense was the best in the National League, totaling 52 runs saved between the four infield positions.
Third baseman Ryan McMahon, a Gold Glove finalist, totaled 22 runs saved all by himself. At second base, the Rockies are hoping for a breakout season from Brendan Rodgers, whom Black said “continues to make incremental progress” in the field.
Rodgers grew up as a shortstop, but Black said Rodgers is beginning to understand what it will take to become a quality big-league second baseman.
“His work capacity is increasing,” Black said. “His ability to practice has improved. Think about a high school player coming into pro baseball, the amount of repetition, the ground balls you take, and the time you’re on the field.
“It takes time to build up that stamina, endurance and work ethic to really improve. That’s where (Rodgers) is now. He’s passed some thresholds that will enable him to be better.”
The primary first baseman will be C.J. Cron, who led the club with 28 home runs last season.
“C.J. was a solid average at first last year,” Black said. “I thought he got better as the season went along. I thought he was very good scooping balls around (the bag).”
Cron, coming off knee surgery in 2020, looked rusty at the beginning of last season, committing five errors through May 22, but he committed only five errors the rest of the season.