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The Red Report 2020 - Raisel Iglesias

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The Reds closer voiced his displeasure at being used in anything other than a save situation, and the number reflected it. Can he be more reliable in 2020?

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Fast Facts

  • Was the 2016 Reds Opening Day starter!
  • Born January 4th, 1990 in Isla de Juventud, Cuba
  • Pitch: Right; Bats: Right and well...
  • He CAN bat!

Organizational History

  • Signed by the Reds on June 27, 2014.
  • Debuted on April 12, 2015.
  • Signed a 3 year, $24.125 million contract on November 21, 2018.

Career Stats

Scouting Report

Fangraphs
Fangraphs

Gifs that Raise Hell

Projections

Outlook

To say that Raisel Iglesias was “bad” last season is probably too harsh a judge of his ability and results. He was still plenty effective, especially when he was “on” (and every Reds fans knows what it means when Raisel is on; our dude looks like he’s tossing 96 MPH whiffle balls up there from about nine different arm angles). After all, his fastabll still averaged about 96 MPH, good for the top 83rd percentile in all of baseball. He still struck plenty of fools out, as his 31.9% strike out rate ranked just outside the top 10% of pitchers. He racked up 34 saves, which tied for third most in the National League.

Still, he wasn’t that consistently electric shut down arm that we’ve come accustomed to over the last few years. His 0.8 bWAR in 2019 was easily his worst since becoming a full time reliever. His 4.16 ERA easily his highest (and technically highest even when grouping in his season as a starter). He was credited with a Major League reliever leading 12 losses last season and, while that number isn’t necessarily entirely his fault, it’s bad.

Iglesias actually struck out more (12 K/9) and walked less (2.8 BB/9) batters than the previous season, but he was quite a bit more hittable, allowing a career high 8.2 H/9. He also suffered another season where he was bitten by the long ball, nearly matching his HR/9 number from his weird 2018 season.

That’s notable, of course, because while it was weird to have that Coco Cordero feeling in your gut when Iglesias entered the game in 2019, it wasn’t exactly the most surprising outcome. Raisel managed a 2.38 ERA in 2018 and a robust 2.0 bWAR for a reliever, but his FIP suggested something a bit different. His 4.23 FIP in 72 innings pitched in 2018 was easily the highest that particular stat had rated out in his career, which suggested his 2018 season was a little luckier than the results may have indicated.

It was that season that his home run per nine jumped by a full point (0.6 in 2017 vs. 1.5 in 2018). It was obviously a problem in that season, which was otherwise a good one. He ran it back in 2019 (1.6), and the results caught up to him.

Iglesias also ruffled some feathers last spring when he openly criticized David Bell about how he was being used. Listen, every reliever wants to be The Guy, and being The Guy usually means being The Closer. It’s easy for us nerd bloggers to point out how silly that is, but it’s just the fact. The status that comes with being a team’s closer means something. And that’s what Iglesias saw himself as.

So, when he found himself in a number of non-save situations early in 2019, he expressed his displeasure through the media. “The way they are using me is horribly wrong,” he said to the media after a loss to the Giants in May. And, the splits don’t lie about it; in save situations, Iglesias pitched 42.2 innings with a 3.59 ERA, 1.055 WHIP, and 12.9 K/9. In his other 24.1 innings pitched in 2019, Iglesias served up a 5.18 ERA with a 1.521 WHIP. Yikes.

Really, it’s hard to tell what causes something like that. Former Reds closer Aroldis Chapman kind of had that about him as well; he just didn’t seem to “get up” for non-saves the way he did saves. I suppose I can understand the difference in mentality between pitching to keep your team in the game vs. pitching to slam the door shut on your opponent. People are just wired in weird ways.

Iglesias and Bell are saying all the right things to begin training camp. They both chalk it up to being used in a way Iglesias had never been used before. A “learning experience” all the way around.

Getting him back up to his normal level of production would go a long way for a bullpen that is anything but automatic. There are plenty of arms down there that are talented, but each have or have had their issues in the past. Adding Iglesias back as the anchor at the end of the pen would take a lot of pressure off of everyone else.