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.
Juiced baseball or not, like mentioned, in comparison with the rest of the league, Jose did good. Sorry to see he may leave.
Actually, compared to the league, he didn’t exactly do good. He was an 85 OPS+ hitter – that’s 15% worse than the league average. But that ignores how clutch he was, too. Which adds to the below-average context neutral stuff. How much can be debated, though.
That’s the thing for me, his OBP with people on base. That’s something this team lacked for several seasons, since Duvall’s first and possibly second season.
Steve, do you think his hitting with runners in scoring position – which in 2019 was better than his career line – will likely repeat itself over the next couple of years?
The Reds’ OBP with runners in scoring position was .354. Iglesias OBP with runners in scoring position was .358 – which was 160th in MLB (Fangraphs).
I would love to see us spend our free agency dollars on Grandal for 3-4 years, a middle of the rotation pitcher for 3 years and land Iglesias for a 2-3 year contract. This would then leave either 2nd bas or Cf, whichever we can get most bang for the buck.(Senzel plays whatever position not filled externally) I think Moustakas would be interesting.
This gives us a major upgrade at Catcher and middle of the order hitter, one more solid pitcher for the rotation as getting through 2 years in a row with no pitcher injuries is asking for a miracle. An excellent defensive SS with solid hitting skills. (Awesome value player if he is hitting 7th or 8th). Also make Votto btter as gives him off days against tough Left handed pitchers as Grandal can play 1st and Casalli or Farmer can catch.
I would then trade Barnhart for a couple of promising relievers thus strengthening the bullpen. After this is complete I look into what difference making outfielder could I go after in trade that shores up our outfield as though they look promising there are still a lot of questions concerning Aquino, Senzel, Winker and Ervin.
These moves most likely get me to the playoffs. At trade deadline, I look to add one more proven back of the bullpen reliever.
The Reds must #getthehitting. The names they have been linked to are Grandal, Gregorius, and Kendrick. Others they are likely investigating are Castellanos, Mike Moustakas, Marcel Ozuna, and Corey Dickerson.
The best result would seem to be successful efforts to sign both Grandal and Gregorius, and then use whatever budget is left to help the bullpen or the bench. With 29 other teams competing for the top free agents, the odds on the Reds getting both Grandal and Gregorius are long. That’s why they have to cast a wide net and bring in two and maybe three “impact” bats, either by free agent signing or by trade. Sometimes we gloss over how truly bad this team was offensively in 2019, and it’s going to take a #getthehitting endeavor that matches the success of the #getthepitching effort over the past offseason for this team to compete for a division title.
If I was running the team (and we’re all probably very fortunate that I am not), the only position players currently on the roster who would have security in their starting roles are Suarez and Votto. All other positions would be targets for upgrades.
Gregorius is a fine player but only a shade better than Freddy Galvis. Leave him at SS. Adios to Iglesias. Let 2B be a battle between Senzel and Peraza, whom I believe is too young and too talented (see 2018) to be discarded as a “utility guy.” The Reds have three spots to fill in Free Agency: OF (tons of ?s), C (Barnhart is a great defender and solid #2 but not an impact hitter), and a mid-rotation starter. Realistically they can only afford 2 of the 3. Grandal & Osuna would be ideal.
It will be interesting to see what he gets in FA, particularly compared to Gregorius who is the same age. As you mention, the FA market is thin, which helps both. With Iglesias you know what you are getting: very strong (but not the very top) defense and a light bat that is 15-20% below average. With Gregorius a team gets the chance for him to regain some of his former production at the plate (but even in good circumstances probably doesn’t get all the way back up to prime), but he could also be too far into decline to be much more than the numbers he put up this year in New York.
Gregorius will be a risk, who can either pay off in a big way or be a regrettable mistake. He’s the best shortstop available, and therefore worth the risk for this team that wants to compete.
If you sign Gregorius, do you sign Iglesius also as your insurance policy, or are you good with Galvis as that insurance? He wasn’t an offensive juggernaut after the first few weeks.
Answer: Yes. Aquino may be at his highest value point right now. I hope he turns out to be the hitter he was in August, but chances are it will be closer to the hitter he was in September.
He will likely be an average of both. Sluggers run hot and cold, depending on their timing and contact.
I don’t understand why people are so negative on Aquino at this point. He had a great AAA season and carried a lot of that into his major league time. He worked hard on his approach and pitch recognition between 2018 and 2019. It has paid off. Why do Reds’ fans want to dump every young prospect for someone else’s player? We dumped Gregorius earlier for one year of Shin Soo Choo, and Grandal (and others) for about two good years of Matt Latos.
I would not trade him for Benitendi at this point. Either Aquino will be a pretty remarkable slugger or a home run, low average hitter. And it will be hard for him to equal the combined output of Puig and himself in Right Field for 2020, but he might do that.
Amen to David. I asked a similar question a couple of days ago re: Castillo.
Is there any review of how accurate Steamer ever is? It’s just guys playing with Excel spreadsheets. Is this what baseball is all about now? Steamer projections?
Of course they have nothing to go on with Aquino. It’s all statistical mumbo-jumbo. The real world is where the guys actually play.
We know it’s a great game. Enjoy baseball your own way.
I don’t know much, but I know that Aquino for Benintendi is a trade that will only be happening in your dreams. 🙂