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Raisel Iglesias entered this season as the ultimate unknown. The Reds signed the Cuban defector to a seven-year, $27 million contract in June of last year, with designs of using him as a starting pitcher in the long-term. The right-hander had been used primarily as a long reliever in the Cuban National Series, going two to three innings per game, but such usage patterns are more indicative of a league that favors tournament-style play than an indictment of a pitcher's stamina.

The expectation was that Iglesias would start the season in the minors, adjusting to pro ball in his new country. He had seven crisp innings in the AFL that had scouts buzzing last November, and he pitched well over 14 2/3 innings this spring, but it was enough to convince the Cincinnati brass that the 25-year old was ready and he broke camp with the big club. Iglesias made his MLB debut on April 12 against the St. Louis Cardinals, and though he was understandably on a strict pitch count, the right-hander wasted no time in returning some value on the team's investment.

Game Stats

IP

R

H

BB

K

PC

5.0

3

5

2

4

76

Iglesias blanked the Cardinals for four frames, not allowing a baserunner until Kolten Wong's bloop single with one out in the third inning. He struck out four batters and walked just one until the fifth, at which point things began to unravel. It started with a rocket down the thirdbase line for a double by Yadier Molina, followed by a walk to Wong on a 3-2 count and a sac bunt to the pitcher than put two runners in scoring position with one out. At this point, Tony Cingrani began warming up in the Reds bullpen, but he was kept on ice while the Cards knocked consecutive hits that plated three runs, the last of which was a deep drive by Jayson Heyward, who was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. Iglesias was allowed to finish the inning, after which point his day was done.

Iglesias threw 76 total pitches on the day, and though his command wavered as he got deeper into the game, there was no indication of fatigue in his velocity numbers. He pumped 47 fastballs that averaged 92.3 mph and spiked 95, but velocity was actually the least impressive of the pitch's attributes. For the first few innings, Iglesias displayed excellent command with a particular knack for locating the pitch on the lower shelf of the strike zone, and he could manipulate the movement on his fastball at will in order to facilitate various locations around the zone. The movement was the most impressive trait of his heater, with late cut on his four-seamer and arm-side drift on the two-seam variety. Just take a look at the backwards K of Matt Holliday, a sinker that triggered 94.0 mph on the gun with enough movement to freeze a 12-year veteran like a deer in headlights.

The slider was inconsistent, with a tendency to pull the pitch far to the glove side, but the slide had sharp movement and flashed the potential to be a put-away offering, One has to wonder if his use of variable arm slots (which could be tied to specific pitch types) might eventually work as a tip-off to opposing batters, particularly once the advanced scouts have made their rounds on him, but for now his deception will be aided by the novelty. Iglesias tossed a few changeups in his debut, but the pitch was an afterthought; his performance was largely driven by the location and movement of his fastball variations.

He was sent down to the minors after the game, and the recent activation of Homer Bailey from the disabled list effectively pushes Iglesias down the depth chart of the Reds' rotation. He has the look of a pitcher who could earn his way back to the show in short order, so there is a very good chance that Iglesias resurfaces soon, that is unless the Reds can replicate the 2012 Cincinnati team that got 161 starts out of the core five (including current stalwarts Bailey, Johnny Cueto, and Mike Leake).

Mechanics Report Card

Balance

50

Momentum

60

Torque

50

Posture

65

Repetition

55

Overall

B-

Comparing a ballplayer to his countrymen is often a lazy overture, but in the case of pitchers that hail from Cuba, there is often a blatant template that has been borrowed from those who have left the island and found success in the States. For example, Ordisamer Despaigne borrows several aspects of his delivery from Orlando Hernandez, and one of those traits is a variable arm slot that constantly moves the batter's visual window. Iglesias has a leg kick that is more reminiscent of fellow Red Aroldis Chapman, but he incorporates the ever-changing arm slot to an extreme, drawing comparisons to former Red Bronson Arroyo. Iglesias will sometimes drop down into what amounts to a submarine delivery, such as in the above GIF of his slider, and any spine-tilt at release is veering toward the arm side. On other pitches he will lean the other direction, tilting slightly glove-side while raising his angle of shoulder abduction to manipulate a higher slot, such as in the following clip:

The tendency to tuck into leg lift and hunch over during stride harms his grade for balance, as does his tendency to drop out of the top of his delivery. He finishes very low, with a release height that falls between five and five-and-a-half feet depending on the arm slot (about two standard deviations below the mean). The lateral balance is otherwise strong and his Z-plane balance (rubber to plate) is nearly perfect, such that the net result is a league-average grade for his dynamic stability. He generally finishes with excellent posture, spiking a 70-grade at peak, and though his spine-tilt will engage differently based on the desired arm slot, he also relies much more on shoulder abduction to raise and lower his release point.

His momentum is very efficient, carving a direct path to the plate that begins with a strong first move and continues to accelerate with a smooth transition through lift and stride. When at his best, Iglesias follows the baseball after release point as his momentum carries him forward during follow-through. He engages a slide step from the stretch, and the early returns suggest that he struggles to harness the quicker timing pattern. He also fell into a rush in the fourth and fifth innings of the game on the twelfth, speeding up his momentum from the windup as well as the stretch, and though an increase in speed is desirable in a vacuum, in many cases (such as this one) the quicker pace to the plate disrupts the pitcher's timing. His timing signature seemed best aligned with 60-grade momentum.

Iglesias has rather low torque for a pitcher who throws so hard. His trigger has some delay after foot strike, but rather than utilize the technique to generate plus hip-shoulder separation, the right-hander is merely compensating for late hip rotation and modest upper-body load. His repetition of timing was surprisingly strong for a young pitcher, that is until later in the ballgame when fatigue may have set in and his delivery was compromised. He presents a rather unique combination of mechanical strengths and weaknesses, but then again I'm growing accustomed to Cuban pitchers breaking the scale, as more than one report card is necessary to accurately describe the deliveries of El Duque, Despaigne, and Iglesias.