Colorado Rockies player reviews: Iglesias proved a Rockie can hit on the road in his lone season in purple

Welcome to the 2022 edition of Ranking the Rockieswhere we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2022. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

★ ★ ★

No. 7, José Iglesias: 1.2 rWAR

When it was clear that Trevor Story, the two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger and Rockies shortstop for the last six years, wasn’t going to re-sign with the Rockies after the 2021 season, the Rockies needed someone to hold down the fort until hot-shot prospect Ezequiel Tovar was ready for the big leagues.

Enter José Iglesias. He not only filled in nicely, but also turned into one of the best hitters in Rockies history away from Coors Field.

Iglesias, who came in with 10 years of experience in MLB with the Red Sox, Tigers, Reds, Orioles, and Angels before signing with the Rockies, signed a one-year, $5 million deal on March 10, six days after the lockout ended. Despite suffering a hand injury that forced him to miss over three weeks in September, Iglesias finished first among Rockies with 400-at bats with a .292 batting average and second with a .328 on-base percentage (qualified hitters needed at least 500 at -bats, making Brendan Rodgers the team batting champion at .266).

The most impressive stats came from Iglesias’ bat on the road. Away from Coors Field, Iglesias slashed .315/.348/.399. The next best road batting average from players with at least 200 at-bats was Yonathan Daza at .289 and Charlie Blackmon at .241. The Cuban native even ranked No. 12 overall in MLB in road batting average for players with at least 200 at-bats in between Michael Harris II’s .317 and just above Aaron Judge’s .313.

When most players come to Colorado, they relish the chance to hit at Coors Field. It didn’t turn out that way for Iglesias, who hit .264 in the Mile High City. He talked about this unique circumstance with MLB.com’s Manny Randhawa when he was hitting .353 on the road at the end of July and threatening to break Mike Kingery’s .362 road batting average, which is Rockies all-time record.

“I feel like on the road, the ball breaks like it’s supposed to,” Iglesias said. “Whereas here, it doesn’t break as it’s supposed to. It should be easier for a hitter [at Coors Field] — I think when you get used to it, it’s generally better to hit here, obviously. But having an idea where the ball is gonna end, it helps.”

While Iglesias was well behind Story’s 2.5 rWAR in 2022, he was one of only 10 Rockies with a rWAR over 1.0 and he cost Colorado one-fourth of Story’s salary (he made $20 million in 2022, the first of a six-year, $140 million deals).

In 2019, Iglesias hit a career-high 11 homers. This year, he hit three — two at Coors Field and one away. While he wasn’t big on power, he was the Rockies best hitter for average and on-base percentage with runners in scoring position. In 99 RISP at-bats, he hit .354/.402/.475 with 26 singles, nine doubles, and one homer. He drove 40 runs, walked six times, and only struck out 14 times.

By the time his hand injury sidelined him on Sept. 6, Bud Black spoke to the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders about the surprise boost Iglesias gave the Rockies at the plate.

“I hadn’t seen a lot of José live,” Black said. “We always thought of José as glove first, but he’s turned himself, over the years, into a good hitter. He’s a (.280) lifetime hitter and this year it’s been proven that he’s got good bat-to-ball skills, using the whole field. All of those things.”

While his defense wasn’t award-winning, Iglesias made some highlight plays and also had a hand in 69 double plays (eighth highest in MLB among shortstops), serving as a key cog in the defense the Rockies count on so much. He finished with a .981 fielding percentage and eight errors in 975 2/3 innings with -4 total runs saved.

A man who defected from Cuba while playing a tournament with the Cuban youth national team in Canada, 18-year-old Iglesias crossed the border, claimed asylum, and spent time in jail in Montana to try to make a life in the US playing baseball . He did n’t know if he’d see his family again and he had to establish residency in the Dominican Republic before finally earning his citizenship in America at a ceremony at Comerica Park in 2018.

In 2022, Iglesias brought his love for the game to Colorado. He also got to witness MLB history, becoming the first player to congratulate Miguel Cabrera, his former teammate, on his 3,000th hit when Antonio Senzatela surrendered it on Apr. 23.

At the end of the season when his hand was healed, Iglesias returned to the lineup, playing four games in the final road trip of the season before becoming a free agent. It may be Tovar time in Colorado, but Iglesias made the most of his time in purple.

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