Since signing with the Reds out of Cuba in June of 2014, Raisel Iglesias has been one of our favorite topics of conversation here at the Nation.
From almost the very second I laid eyes on Iglesias, I felt like he was the most talented pitcher in the organization. With good reason: Iglesias has been nothing short of outstanding in his 55 appearances over two seasons with the Redlegs. I like calling him “Bronson Arroyo with stuff,” as Iglesias has at least three plus pitches, and he changes arm angles like Arroyo did in his heyday.
There is no doubt in my mind that Iglesias could be a #1 starter in the big leagues, given his talent. For a long time, we debated the merits of starter vs. reliever for Iglesias (see here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here).
At this point, it’s become increasingly clear to everyone that Iglesias’ shoulder is just not going to be able to handle the workload of a starting pitching. Again, I can’t stress how much that bums me out. This guy is the real deal, an elite talent.
However, given that Iglesias seems destined for the bullpen, it seems like a great opportunity for Bryan Price and the Reds to get creative with Raisel’s usage. If he’s going to be a reliever anyway, why can’t he be the best reliever on earth?
Something that happened at our Redleg Nation/Red Reporter meetup last September got all of us dreaming about inventive ways to use Iglesias out of the bullpen. What if he could be a 120-inning reliever, as Steve Mancuso dreamed:
A little more than a month later, my ears perked up at the Q&A session with the Reds front office staff when Nick Krall floated the notion that a reliever like Raisel Iglesais, if he pitched 120 innings, might be nearly as valuable as a starting pitcher. It’s one thing for an uncredentialed writer (me) to spitball a new idea. It’s another level of seriousness when a major league assistant general manager does it.
At 120 innings (or even 90), relievers will still be worth less than full-time starters because of math. But confining their innings to high-leverage situations would bring the values closer together. A certain percentage of the starter’s innings are with leads or deficits of three runs or greater.
If Raisel Iglesias’ balky shoulder or Michael Lorenzen’s pitch portfolio mean one or both are destined for the bullpen, then any number of innings beyond the typical modern reliever role would be beneficial to the club. 90 innings from above-average pitchers have more value than 65. While you’re thinking about it, throw this on the mounting pile of arguments against the restrictive, Dusty Baker-style closer role for the best arm in the bullpen.
I dunno, just the thought of using Iglesias (and Lorenzen, I guess, though he should be a starter!) in a role that is somewhat closer to what we saw from managers in the 2016 playoffs — that is, creative usage — excites me.
Alas, Raisel Iglesias continues to have trouble staying healthy. Over the weekend, we saw this brief report in the Enquirer:
RHP Raisel Iglesias didn’t pitch in his scheduled minor-league game on Saturday because of what Price labeled “stiffness in his elbow.” Price said it was “not a major concern.”
Stiffness in his elbow. “Not a major concern.” We’ve heard that one before. (Most recently with Anthony DeSclafani, about whom there was more reason to be concerned than initially reported by Price. Before that, it was Homer Bailey, who was just fine until he ended up having surgery.)
Fast forward to Monday, when C. Trent reported this on Iglesias:
In addition to his sore right elbow, Raisel Iglesias’ back is also bothering him. He was scheduled to be examined on Monday, Price said.
“He should be OK,” Price said. “We’re going to do a bit more of a thorough once-over today with both the elbow and back. There’s no reason to slow him down completely.”
Sore right elbow. Back problems.
It’s certainly conceivable that I’m making more of this than I should. This could just be a minor issue that many pitchers deal with during the course of spring training. There’s no hint that anything more serious is afoot than has been reported.
On the other hand, given Iglesias’ injury history — combined with the recent bad news about fellow hurlers DeSclafani and Bailey — forgive me if I’m a little jumpy about any reports of his ill health. Raisel can be a very important piece of the next good Reds team, and even moreso if he’s healthy enough to justify pitching him more (and in more high-leverage situations) than the average stud relief pitcher.
What’s up with Raisel Iglesias? That’s a question that we’ll be keeping a keen eye on over the next couple of weeks.