Raisel Iglesias Impresses, but Questions Remain

When the Reds signed Aroldis Chapman out of Cuba, a brief attempt was made to make him a starter in the minors, but in the majors, he has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. Raisel Iglesias, a fellow Cuban import who has been ticketed by some for the bullpen, has already made one more start than Chapman with his debut on Sunday against the Cardinals. Iglesias made it through five innings, giving up three runs while striking out four and walking two. There are still some concerns that could cause him to end in the bullpen, but he showed an impressive fastball that fooled Cardinals hitters when he dropped his arm angle.

Iglesias pitched as a reliever in Cuba and has not been seen too often since signing with the Reds last July for seven years and $27 million. In Kiley McDaniel’s write-up on the Reds prospects, he had this to say about his performance in the Arizona Fall League:

He sat 91-95 and hit 97 mph in these outings, with his stuff varying a bit in each outing. Iglesias is about to turn 25 and there’s some east/west, inconsistency and effort to his delivery, but scouts see the elements of average command in the tank. Iglesias has a four pitch mix and his slider will flash plus every now and then, so there’s mid-rotation upside.

Iglesias’ slider performed well, striking out Jason Heyward in the first inning.

While the slider got Heyward, it was Iglesias’ fastball, particularly to right-handers, that performed well in his initial start. Iglesias’ release point varied throughout the start, but he tended to drop his arm angle to try and fool right-handed hitters. For comparison, here is Iglesias’ release point against left-handers, from Brooks Baseball.

release (LHH)

Iglesias’ release point was inconsistent against left-handers, but he did not appear to purposely drop his arm angle on any pitches. Below is a 91 mile per hour sinker from Iglesias to Matt Carpenter in the fifth inning. It was not Iglesias’ best pitch of the day as it caught the middle of the plate and Carpenter pulled it for a run-scoring single.

The release point against Carpenter was fairly typical for Iglesias on the day. He pitched right-handers differently depending on the situation. Here is a graph showing Iglesias’ release point against right-handers, with strike two in yellow.

release (RHH-2K)

Most of the pitches are in the same general area as when Iglesias pitched to left-handers, but there is a group of pitches where the release point moved quite a bit from normal. When Iglesias wanted to put away hitters he dropped his arm angle as seen by all the yellow squares that are lower and to the left compared to most of his pitches. Here is the release point by pitch against Matt Holliday in the first when he struck him out looking.

release (Holliday1)

The called strike was released lower and further away from the body.

Iglesias dropped his arm angle and it fooled Holliday. The ball looks to be headed off the plate, but it appears to move back over the outside corner. Iglesias did the same thing against Mark Reynolds.

The second time Holliday saw Iglesias, Holliday saw the same dropped angle. This time, he swung at the pitch as it got more of the plate, but could still not make contact against the offering up in the zone.

When Holliday came to bat the third time against Iglesias, some damage had already been done in the fifth. Yadier Molina led off the inning with a double, Kolten Wong walked, Carlos Martinez sacrificed moving both runners ahead before Carpenter’s single and Jason Heyward’s double scored the only three runs Iglesias would allow in the game. Holliday grounded out on a slider on the second pitch without another attempt to drop his arm angle. In his fifth and final inning, Iglesias’s first two outs had little to do with his performance as the first came on a sacrifice bunt, and the second came when Heyward attempted to stretch a double into a triple. After Holliday grounded out to end the inning, Iglesias’ day was through.

The start was certainly an encouraging one for Iglesias. His fastball was good enough to get good major league hitters out, and his slider got a swing and miss from Jason Heyward. He made it through five innings on just 76 pitches, and he pitched four clean frames before his poor fifth inning. Even if Iglesias cannot make it as a starter, his stuff looks good enough to be a shutdown reliever.

Iglesias will need quite a few more starts at the major league level to determine if he can stick as a starter. Whether dropping his arm angle will continue to fool hitters as he is exposed to more starts and hitters see him multiple times in a game is not yet known. Basing conclusions on his stuff lasting deep into games after one poor fifth inning would be a poor choice and presumably Cincinnati will let him continue to start even when Homer Bailey comes back.

The Reds will have a decision to make with Iglesias and Jason Marquis holding down the last two spots in the rotation. The outlook on Iglesias is not yet known while the outlook for Marquis is not positive. The Reds could let Iglesias develop in Triple-A and prove he can make it deep into games, but he has already shown the ability to get big-league hitters out so it might be better to let him prove himself at the highest level. His first start for the Reds was a positive one that showed why the Reds made a significant investment. The performance did not quell the previously known questions about lasting as a starter, but Iglesias continued to show enough promise to continue the experiment a good while longer.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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7 years ago

1) Craig writes article about Raisel Iglesias.

2) Raisel Iglesias gets sent down.

Seems obvious to me that this is all your fault