Boston’s Shortstop of the Future Is Right Under Our Noses

There’s an added wrinkle to the Red Sox’ shortstop dilemma for 2010 and beyond — and he’s practically still in diapers.

It’s a strange thought, but there’s a good chance that Jose Iglesias, fresh out of Cuba and 19 years of age, could play into the Red Sox’ plans for next season. As Alex Gonzalez sits on the free-agent market, Jed Lowrie works to return to peak form and Nick Green does Lord knows what, Iglesias represents the wild card.

The Red Sox signed Iglesias as an amateur free agent in September to a four-year, $8.25 million deal with a $6 million signing bonus. Rather than wait for spring training next year to see him in action, the organization put him to work right away — he’s playing as we speak for the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. And so far, they’re encouraged by his progress.

“He’s done remarkably well, considering he hasn’t played in over a year,” Red Sox director of player development Mike Hazen told the Providence Journal last week. “It’s a very high level of baseball out there, and he’s acclimated himself quite well to the league and the level of competition. He’s played hard and has handled himself well.”

Iglesias’ numbers show a work in progress. He appears to be just about a league-average hitter in the AFL — he’s put together a .277 average, a .329 on-base percentage, two homers and four doubles in 17 games. He doesn’t look like a superstar, but he’s got all the tools to get there.

You can check out his swing for yourself. He just looks like a major league hitter — good eye, good instincts, quick bat. To watch Iglesias work is to know that he gets it.

Scouting reports on his defensive prowess have been equally encouraging. Iglesias is still young, but all the tools are already there — he’s got solid range, good instincts, superb glove work and a strong arm. He’s a Gold Glove shortstop waiting to happen.

If all this buzz about Iglesias is true, then there should really be no argument. He’s the shortstop of the future in Boston. But when is the future? Probably not 2010.

It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox, with all their money and all their resources, being desperate enough to start a kid like Iglesias, who turns 20 this winter. He’s an attractive option for down the road, but not for the present.

“We have to show some patience because he’s only 19 years old,” Red Sox minor league field coordinator Rob Leary told the Journal. “Although he’s played a lot of baseball, he’s going to go through some cultural assimilation on the field as well as off the field. He’s actually going through it right now, and there are times when that youth shows in all different circumstances.

“I like his skill set. He’s a real live body and high-energy type player. I like the way he goes about the game and he loves to play. He brings a lot of energy.”

In other words, Iglesias shows a lot of promise. He doesn’t quite show what it takes to start in Boston at 20. But who does?

The Red Sox have made do with a motley mix of temp workers at shortstop for the past half decade. Whether it’s Gonzalez, Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria or Julio Lugo, the Sox are no stranger to the one-year quick fix. So what’s another year or two?

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