Cincinnati Reds 2015 Grades: Raisel Iglesias

As you’ve probably heard, rookie pitchers started the final 64 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 2015. By far, the most impressive of those rookies down the stretch was Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias.

After Homer Bailey‘s initial injury, Iglesias started the year as the Reds’ fifth starter. He made his first big league start against the St. Louis Cardinals, throwing five innings and allowing three runs on five hits while striking out four and walking two. He was sent back to the minors after that start and had issues getting deep into games, throwing more than five innings just once. Iglesias’ stay in Triple-A Louisville lasted just over a month before being recalled in mid-May.

Iglesias’ first start back was one of his best of the year, as he held the Atlanta Braves to one run and two hits over eight innings en route to picking up his first major league win. However, that would be the last win Iglesias would earn until August.

Following that start, he joined the bullpen for two weeks in order to reduce his innings. He rejoined the starting rotation at the end of the month to more mixed, inconsistent results and then was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique strain.

The injury kept Iglesias out for over a month before returning a few days prior the All-Star break. His initial return to the rotation showed more inconsistency and some were beginning to wonder whether Iglesias was cut out to be a starter. He had little issue getting through an opposing lineup the first time, but when he saw hitters for a second and third time, things unraveled.

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Once the Reds returned from the break, he had a couple more so-so starts, but everything really began to come together for the rookie when the calendar turned to August.

From Aug. 1 on, Iglesias threw seven straight starts of six innings or more. Leading up to that point, he’d pitched that many innings just twice all year (once in Triple-A). He also allowed no more than three runs, four hits or three walks in any of those seven starts, resulting in a 2.31 ERA and a ridiculous 0.77 WHIP. Iglesias also struck out 55 over this 46.6-inning stretch, including a span of three straight starts in which he struck out 10 or more — the first time that had been done in Reds history.

The innings began to take their toll in September and he was shut down after his Sept. 13 start, but all in all, the Reds had to be beyond pleased with what they saw from Iglesias in his first year.

Iglesias finished with a 3-7 record to go along with a 4.15 ERA, 3.55 FIP and a 1.14 WHIP. He showed better strikeout ability than was advertised, punching out 9.8 batters per nine innings. Given his many arm angles, he also did a nice job keeping his walks down, issuing just 2.6 free passes per nine innings. Those numbers are impressive to be sure, but it was that seven-start stretch that has fans so excited about Iglesias’ future.

Alongside Anthony DeSclafani, Iglesias is one of the two sure-fire bets to make the Reds’ rotation out of spring training in 2016 with Bailey out until at least May as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The club may opt to go with DeSclafani on Opening Day since he has a bit more experience, but don’t be surprised to see Iglesias toeing the rubber on Opening Night, fooling Philadelphia Phillies hitters with his side-winding delivery and nasty pitch repertoire.

Grade: A-