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Jose Iglesias versus Omar Vizquel

7/31/2013

Jonah Keri breaks down the three-way Jake Peavy deal here and Keith Law breaks it down here if you're an ESPN Insider.

Jose Iglesias moves to Detroit in the trade and everyone knows Iglesias isn't anything near the .330 hitter he's been for the Red Sox. After a luck-fueled hot start, Jonah points out he hit .176 over his final 21 games with the Red Sox.

Iglesias wasn't acquired for his bat, of course, but his glove. The guy I compare him to is Omar Vizquel, as both have those wonderful hands and aesthetic beauty in the field. My question: Could Iglesias ever develop at the bat like Vizquel did? When Vizquel came up with the Mariners, he was, like Iglesias, a magician on defense with no physical strength at the plate. In his first three seasons with Seattle, Little O hit .230/.290/.283 with just four home runs in nearly 1,200 plate appearances. That's about what you would expect from Iglesias moving forward considering his .257/.307/.314 line in the minors.

Vizquel slowly improved, however. From ages 25 to 27, which covers his final two years in Seattle and his first in Cleveland, he hit .273, albeit still with little power. At 28, he hit six home runs and 28 doubles, and then from 1996 through 2002 he hit .287/.358/.388, averaging 41 extra-base hits per season. His OPS+ of 93 was still below the league average hitter, but certainly acceptable for a good defensive shortstop.

Ozzie Smith was a similar case as well. Through age 26 he hit .231/.295/.278. Traded to St. Louis and helped by the turf at Busch Stadium, his batting averages improved and he eventually topped out at 40 doubles one season.

One big difference between Vizquel and Smith and Iglesias, however: Both of them showcased a better walk rate. Smith was at 7.7 percent through age 26 and averaged over 10 percent every season except one from ages 27 trough 37. Vizquel was at 7.4 percent through age 26 and averaged 9.4 percent over the next decade. Iglesias owns a 4.7 percent walk rate so far in his major league career (6 percent in the minors). That plate discipline and bat control eventually helped them to become better hitters, as well post respectable on-base percentages.

I did a quick search on Baseball-Reference.com of players since 1969 who had at least 1,500 plate appearances through age 25 and an OPS+ of 75 or lower (where 100 is a league average hitter). How many of them developed into decent hitters? Here's the list of 23 players with their OPS+ through age 25 (Iglesias is 23) and then their career OPS+ in parenthesis.

Dick Schofield, 75 (73) ... became utility guy in his late 20s

Alex Gonzalez I, 74 (79) ... power but low OBPs

Rey Quinones, 74 (74) ... out of majors at 25

Terry Pendleton, 74 (92) ... NL MVP in 1991, runner-up in '92

Rod Gilbreath, 74 (74) ... out of majors at 25

Eddie Leon, 74 (69) ... last full season at 26

Carlos Gomez, 73 (89) ... breakthrough season at 26

Alex Gonzalez II, 71 (79) ... 157 career HRs, low OBPs

Omar Vizquel, 71 (82) ... 2877 career hits

Spike Owen, 71 (83) ... not much power but took some walks

Julio Cruz, 71 (71) ... second baseman with speed, no pop

Cesar Izturis, 69 (63) ... still hanging around

Ozzie Guillen, 68 (69) ... never improved, swung at everything

Alfredo Griffin, 68 (67) ... once drew four walks in 140 games

Glenn Hoffman, 67 (68) ... utility guy by age 25

Ozzie Smith, 67 (87) ... better than average OPS+ in four seasons

Roger Metzger, 67 (69) ... five career HRs in 4201 at-bats

Jerry Royster, 66 (76) ... had a few decent years as utility guy

Tom Veryzer, 65 (61) ... last year as regular at 26

Andres Thomas, 64 (61) ... epitome of bad Braves teams of late '80s

Tim Foli, 63 (64) ... Lots of these no-hit '70s shortstops here

Jack Wilson, 61 (76) ... Had 64 extra-base hits with Pirates at 26

Enzo Hernandez, 56 (61) ... Infamously had 12 RBIs in 618 PAs in '71

Not surprisingly, almost all these guys were shortstops. The two who developed the best at the plate were the two who didn't play shortstop or second base -- third baseman Pendleton and center fielder Gomez. Pendleton hit .240 at age 24 and .239 at age 25 with the Cardinals but later went to the Braves and won a batting title and hit 22 and 21 homers his two big seasons. We know the Gomez story.

Looking at the others, however, you can see that Vizquel and Smith are unique cases. Iglesias' glove should still make him a valuable asset for the Tigers, but I would bet against him becoming even a minor threat at the plate.