We continue Red Reporter's player by player look at the 2015 Cincinnati Reds. We'll profile every player who got time for the Reds this year, and will imagine their tenure with the Reds going forward.
By The Numbers
18 G (16 GS), 3-7, 4.15 ERA, 95.1 IP, 3.55 FIP, 1.14 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 3.71 K/BB, 1.6 fWAR, 0.9 bWAR
The 1.6 fWAR produced by Raisel Iglesias was the fifth most from any Cincinnati Reds pitcher in 2015, the third most from any who actually finished the season with the organization. His 3.28 xFIP was better than all but Aroldis Chapman and Jumbo Diaz (and came in well better than even Johnny Cueto's 3.57 mark), and his 9.8 K/9 was bested by only John Lamb (10.51) among the many Reds pitchers who made at least a pair of starts last season.
He was limited to just 16 starts thanks to early struggles, a blip of a stint in the bullpen, a minor oblique injury, and shoulder fatigue that prematurely ended his season, but considering 7 innings in the 2014 Arizona Fall League were the only miles on his arm since the 2012 Cuban National Series, those still served as a major step in the right direction. By all accounts, his numbers were good...and promising.
How'd He Do?
Iglesias threw 76 pitches in an April 12th start against the St. Louis Cardinals that was both tantalizing and emblematic of many of his early season appearances. He blanked the filthy Cards through the game's first 4 innings - retiring the first 8 batters he faced in the process - before the wheels fell off in the 5th, he allowed 3 runs, and his afternoon was done early. He was shuttled back to Louisville for a handful of rather solid starts before returning a month later for a start, two relief appearances, and two more so-so starts before an oblique injury shelved him for the time being. At that point, he owned a 5.11 ERA and had allowed opposing batters to hit .273 against him, and while his pitches had moves like Shakira - dear lord, that sinker - he hadn't yet figured out how to harness them effectively.
Then, things got much, much better for Raisel.
He returned on July 11th for a game against the Miami Marlins that saw his old self at the helm (keeping zeroes on the board through 4 innings only to leave in the 5th with 5 ER to his name), but beginning with his first post All Star break start on July 21st against the Chicago Cubs, the Iglesias we'd all hoped for emerged, seemingly for good. From that point forward, he threw 66.1 innings in 11 starts, posted a 3.39 ERA in those starts, allowed opponents to hit just .193, had an almost 4:1 K/BB, and struck out 77 batters. Included in that stretch was a 3 game outburst that saw him become the first Reds pitcher in modern history to strike out at least 10 batters in 3 consecutive games, a trio of starts in which he threw 7 innings in each and fanned 33 in those 21 frames.
His final start came on September 13th, meaning Reds fans were unable to see him during the season's final 20 games, with the thinly veiled "shoulder fatigue" listed as the reason why. It sounded more like an informal innings cap than an injury, though, and in all, it's impossible not to consider his first season in Cincinnati a rather rousing success.
He gets bonus points for the high socks, too.
Raisel will turn 26 on April 1st of next year, and barring recurring injury will likely pencil in as the Game 2 starter for the Reds (when the Red Reporter crew will be in attendance in full, rowdy force). That's assuming the Reds don't go out and sign an established veteran pitcher, of course, though if said veteran is of the same bargain-bin variety as last season's, there's still a solid chance Iglesias will get the ball after fellow former rookie Anthony DeSclafani pitches on Opening Day.
It's worth noting that while Iglesias was a rookie last year, he was actually in the 2nd year of the 7 year, $27 million contract he inked with the Reds during a 2014 season that paid him but only saw him throw 7 innings with the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League. That means that 2016 will already be the 3rd year of his deal, and he'll be earning a tidy $2.5 million for his services. The limited innings on his arm will probably mean the Reds won't expect more than 25-28 starts from him in 2016, but given his salary, his impressive rookie year, and a dearth of other innings-eaters in the franchise, he'll likely get every opportunity needed to show what he's got in a near-full season in the big leagues next year. With $4.2 million due his way in 2017, that's probably the prudent decision.
Walt Jocketty was more or less the only GM in baseball who saw Iglesias as a starting pitcher when he worked out after defecting from Cuba, and the Reds front office has so far looked quite rosy in their evaluation. In fact, if he can maintain some semblance of his 2nd half form from 2015, Iglesias may end up being one of the bigger contract steals in all of baseball for the next five seasons.
Chance of making the 2016 Reds roster: 99.9%