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Tigers gauging Iglesias' offensive potential

Tigers gauging Iglesias' offensive potential

Tigers gauging Iglesias' offensive potential

DETROIT -- The Tigers knew immediately what they were getting from Jose Iglesias defensively when they pulled off the trade two weeks ago. That was evident from his first game at shortstop last week in Cleveland.

His offense, by contrast, is a whole different question.

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"That's a heckuva question, to be honest with you," manager Jim Leyland said Saturday.

While Iglesias' defense has drawn comparisons to Omar Vizquel, many in baseball have wondered if the offense might be the same -- decent average, sporadic power, good speed, .700 OPS. At least one scout compared his hitting to Rey Ordonez, another slick-fielding shortstop who finished his nine-year Major League career with a .600 career OPS, three points lower than Ramon Santiago's current mark. Iglesias' hot start offensively in Boston this year knocked all of those comparisons out of whack.

The Tigers believe he could fall on the higher end of that offensive scale. Exactly where his potential lies, and the best way to get it out of him, is the challenge at this point.

"We haven't had him long," Leyland said, "so as a manager you're taking a chance. [The Tigers] just got their shortstop of the future, and you don't want to dampen him or anything. Off the top of my head, from what I've seen so far, he's got some sock in his bat, but he probably swings a little bit too much like a big man.

"Now, in saying that, he's been hitting .300 all year, so you have to be careful with that as a manager."

Iglesias left Boston batting .330 (71-for-215) with 10 doubles, two triples, a home run, 19 RBIs, 11 walks and 30 strikeouts. He entered Saturday batting .208 (10-for-48) as a Tiger, with a home run as his lone extra-base hit, and 11 strikeouts against two walks.

Both cases are small sample sizes. The Tigers are left to judge on what they see mechanically from him. With his speed, Iglesias has the potential as a weapon on base if he can put the ball in play and hit to all fields. Getting him there, though, might require some tweaks to the swing.

"As a manager, it's a very delicate situation when you're messing with somebody that's had some success up here hitting," Leyland said. "You have to be very careful with that. I'm not Mugwumping your question. I'm just saying that I see some things and [hitting coach Lloyd McClendon] sees some things that we think will help him for the future."

That future, as in beyond this season, might be where any major changes are left to do. For the present, changes might be subtle.

"I'll tell you why this will be very workable: He's very bright," Leyland continued. "He's really a smart baseball player. For a young guy, he's very instinctive and he's very smart, and he'll figure some things out.

"... I don't want to take any of the spirit out of this kid, because I love what I see. I am a huge fan already. I love him. I think he's going to be one heckuva player. And you don't expect him to be the finished product already."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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