Jose Iglesias’ Rough Patch Creates More Questions About Infielder’s True Offensive Potential

Jose IglesiasBOSTON — Everyone knew that Jose Iglesias would come back down to earth at some point. They just didn’t know how rough the landing would be.

Iglesias entered July hitting .409 (54-for-132) after a stellar June earned him American League Rookie of the Month honors. As expected, Iglesias has cooled off, but the drop-off has been so drastic that the Red Sox are left wondering what they have in their 23-year-old infielder.

In all likelihood, Iglesias’ offensive potential lies somewhere in the middle of what he’s done so far. He’s obviously not going to take aim at Ted Williams’ .406 mark anytime soon, but he’s also probably not as bad as the current stretch insists.

Since Iglesias’ average finally fell below .400 on July 7, he’s been mired in a slump that has dropped his average to .343. Iglesias is hitting .173 (9-for-52) in his last 14 games, and perhaps more importantly, he hasn’t walked once in that span.

“He’s just not barreling the ball up as we’ve seen before. … It looks like right now it’s the later action stuff in the zone that’s moving off the barrel for him,” manager John Farrell said after Iglesias’ 0-for-3 effort Wednesday. “And where he’s been able to put enough of the barrel on it to find a hole or drop a base hit in, that’s not happening for him right now.”

Iglesias is known for his glove work more than anything, but his hot start to the season gave hope that he had figured some things out offensively, despite how fluky his success at the plate often seemed. The slick-fielding infielder showed up to spring training about 15 pounds heavier this year, thus increasing his potential for pop, and his plate discipline improved exponentially.

Now, we’re seeing signs of the 2012 version of Iglesias, which isn’t pretty. He’s getting a little too antsy early on in counts, and the hits that were once falling in safely are suddenly turning into routine outs.

Farrell is willing to be patient with Iglesias, though, and it’s understandable. Iglesias is so stellar defensively that his offensive numbers don’t need to jump off the page for him to hold down a spot at the major league level. Plus, Farrell likes some of what he’s seeing at the dish despite the dwindling stat line.

“He gives us the ability to do a number of things inside the game offensively,” Farrell said Thursday. “Defensively, it speaks for itself — that’s going to be well above average. But offensively, we feel like he’s going to make contact, he’s going to put the ball in play, he’s got some instincts at the plate for a push bunt. We can sac with him. There are some things other than just what the sheer batting average indicates, where if the game situation calls for a productive out — that means moving a runner — we’ve got all that our disposal.”

Iglesias might eventually rebound from his current rut, in which case the lingering concerns would be moot. But it just so happens that his struggles coincide with the trade deadline, meaning that the Red Sox must take a long look at the left side of their infield over the next week.

Regardless of what happens before the July 31 deadline, it sounds as if Iglesias will continue to have some role with the big-league club for the foreseeable future.

“He’s going to put up a competitive at-bat,” Farrell said. “The ability to hit and run, like I said, to execute the small game inside of just letting him go ahead and swing the bat if nobody’s on base. I can’t take away the fact of what he did when he was the headline, and now we’re, OK, maybe some things aren’t going as they were before, but he’s still a very good player and he’s going to be with us.”

Iglesias might not be going anywhere. If he doesn’t start hitting at least a little bit, though, the Red Sox might be forced to divvy up the playing time differently at some point.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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