With so many bullpens in disarray due to fluidity or shared high leverage roles, it's remarkable Raisel Iglesias enters each season under-appreciated. Over the last five years, he's one of five relief pitchers with at least 100 saves. Iglesias ranks fifth in saves with 73, trailing Aroldis Chapman by one. In the shortened season of 2020, Iglesias notched eight saves with a 31:5 K:BB in 23 innings. His ERA finished at 2.74 with a 2.63 SIERA and a 0.91 WHIP in his last season with Cincinnati.

Noting his strong strikeout-to-walk ratio, Iglesias sowed the seeds of his success in 2019 when he revamped his arsenal. Iglesias stopped throwing his sinker pivoting to a four-seam fastball instead with some rough results early in the season. However, in September of 2019, Iglesias recorded seven saves with a robust 15:1 K:BB in just under 11 innings. He also set a career high strikeout percentage of 31.9 percent offering elevated four-seam fastballs instead of relying on his sinker.

Upon further inspection, Iglesias also increased his changeup usage which unlocked a new level to his slider production. Here's a visual of his swings and misses generated last year courtesy of Statcast:

Even when Iglesias used a sinker, he produced swinging strikes when elevating the pitch along with his four-seam while getting hitters to miss on sliders along with changeups at the bottom third of the strike zone or below it. Using 2020, here are his underlying statistics with each pitch:

  • Four-seam Fastball - 38.2 percent usage, 28.1 whiff percentage, 26.7 put away percent
  • Slider - 33.2 percent usage, 38.4 whiff percentage, 20.8 put away percent
  • Change-up - 20.8 percent usage, 42 whiff percentage, 21.4 put away percent

More encouraging, Iglesias raised his ground ball rate by over nine percentage points in the shortened 2020 season while cutting fly balls by almost six percent. He also attacked hitters more often with a rise in his zone percentage to 51.2 percent (up 3.2 points) but cutting zone contact percentage by 4.6 percent. His improved arsenal placed Iglesias in the 95th percentile or better last season in expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA), expected on-base percentage (xOBP), whiff percentage and expected ERA (xERA).

A small sample size can be misleading, so in an effort to discern how Iglesias may perform in 2021, looking at extended time frames may be a benefit. First, here's Iglesias’ numbers from the second half of 2019 through the end of last year.

  • Iglesias 2H (2019)-through-2020: 5-8, 26 Saves, 52.1 IP, 73:9 K:BB, 3.61 ERA, 2.47 SIERA, 0.97 WHIP

His strikeouts-minus-walks percentage (31.1) ranks seventh among qualified relievers, his SIERA (the most predictive statistic for future ERA) rated sixth overall and he even finished 18th overall in swinging strike percentage (16.1 percent). Even while revamping his pitch offerings, Iglesias adapted well on the fly while really reducing his walks in this time span.

Over the last three years, Iglesias provides solid production without requiring one to overpay getting him in drafts:

  • Iglesias Last Three Years: 9-20, 73 Saves, 163 IP, 200:51 K:BB, 3.20 ERA, 3.17 SIERA, 1.11 WHIP

Within these seasons, Iglesias also registered five holds and 12 blown saves with a 15.9 swinging strike percentage, 67.7 contact rate allowed and 34.4 O-Swing (outside the strike zone) percent. Heading to a bullpen in clear need of a stable closer, Iglesias heads to the Angels to shore up their high leverage innings while adding to his free agency resumé. Iglesias becomes a free agent at the end of the 2021 season so providing Mike Trout a trip to the postseason would add to his allure in a volatile reliever market.

Understanding projection systems takes the last three years into account, Iglesias may be underrated once again in upcoming drafts and auctions. Here's how two systems see his year finishing:

  • Iglesias 2021 Steamer Projection: 3-3, 30 Saves, 63 IP, 73:21 K:BB, 3.72 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
  • Iglesias 2021 ZiPS Projection: 8-4, 63 IP, 79:21 K:BB, 3.29 K:BB, 3.29 ERA, 1.14 WHIP

However, the projections do not take into account his adjusted arsenal and results over his last 52.1 innings since the inception of 2019's second half. Knowing Iglesias enters 2021 as the closer for the Angels:

Understanding how Iglesias generates more swings and misses along with the clarity of his role makes him a top five reliever to target in 2021. Let others expend precious draft capital on a perceived top shelf closer before pick 90 and move up a round to secure Raisel instead.


Statistical Credits:




ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborks