The second piece in this series that we will run all offseason where we look back at the 2019 campaign for the major players on the Cincinnati Reds.
The Preseason Projection
While he was entering spring training on a minor league deal, he felt safely on the team as a backup infielder. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projected him to hit post an 81 OPS+ on the season.
The 2019 Season
Cincinnati wasn’t planning on having Jose Iglesias be a starter when they brought him in for spring training. But he was viewed as a solid bench player who could slide into the role as a starting shortstop if needed. As it turned out – it was needed. Scooter Gennett’s injury late in the spring led to Iglesias moving into the starting role at shortstop and Jose Peraza sliding over to second base on most days.
The ZiPS projections were both close, and not close at the same time. His 81 OPS+ projection was pretty close – Iglesias finished at 85 on the season. Where it was wrong was the triple-slash line. It’s tough to blame that on the system, though, given that you can’t predict the baseball being juiced in advance and the entire league hitting significantly better because of it. Compared to the league, the ZiPS projections were on target for the overall performance.
Iglesis hit .288/.318/.407 on the year in 146 games and 530 plate appearances. His 11 home runs were easily the best of his career. He had never had more than six in a previous season. His average and on-base percentage were the best he’d had since his All-Star season in 2015, and his slugging percentage – like his home runs – were the best of his career.
The “hidden value” in 2019 for Jose Iglesias, though, wasn’t hidden for many Reds fans. While it’s not a skillset that a player can just “turn it on” when runners are on base, to suggest that it wasn’t of value because it worked out in 2019 would be silly. Jose Iglesias was pretty good when runners were on the bases last season. He hit .320/.356/.488 with runners in scoring position, and he hit .327/.364/.471 with men on. He came through often with guys on the bases in 2019 for Cincinnati. Only two hitters in all of baseball had a better “Clutch” score in 2019 than Iglesias did – Matt Olson and Alex Gordon.
The juiced baseball was a big topic of discussion during the year. Jose Iglesias, like most guys, saw some benefits of the ball. Career highs in both home runs and slugging percentages were there, and he did hit for a higher average than he had for several years.
While the offense was (and wasn’t) a bit surprising, the defense that he brought wasn’t. Jose Iglesias was known for his glove before he reached the Majors. And he’s been known for it the entire time he’s been there. He made several highlight reel plays a week, just about. The signing turned out to be quite valuable for the Reds – even when Iglesias had to play a much larger role than initially expected.
What’s to come?
Who knows? Jose Iglesias is now a free agent. He only had a 1-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds and is now out there testing the market. Hopefully he will do better on the market than he did after 2018 when he had to take a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. The market this offseason is incredibly thin at shortstop, with Iglesias perhaps being the second best option in free agency. But that doesn’t mean he’ll get a lot of traction, either.