One season removed from “winning” the off-season, Cincinnati appears to be changing course for the 2021 season allowing its Cy Young pitcher Trevor Bauer enter free agency and trading its closer, Raisel Iglesias on Monday afternoon:

Representing one of five relief pitchers with at least 100 saves since the start of the 2017 season, Iglesias provides the Angels with a reliable closer. This downgrades the fantasy upside of Mike Mayers , Ty Buttrey , and any other Los Angeles reliever on the roster. This move also provides some relief to the late inning machinations of manager Joe Maddon: 

In what’s setting up to be a winter of discontent in the MLB, a team like Cincinnati shifting to saving salary does not provide a warm fuzzy for the commissioner and player union alike. As for the fantasy fallout, it’s two-fold starting with a look at the underappreciated Raisel Iglesias

Raisel heads to LA

During a tumultuous stretch in 2019, Iglesias almost lost his hold on the ninth inning. Beneath his struggles, Iglesias adjusted his arsenal leaving the comfort zone of his sinker and deploying a four-seam fastball instead. It finally clicked in September with Iglesias recording seven saves with a robust 15:1 K:BB in just under 11 innings of work. 

Iglesias carried over the momentum into the truncated 2020 season converting eight of 10 save chances with a 31:5 K:BB, 2.74 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. His new three pitch mix solidified with each one featuring a put away percentage of at least 20 percent:

  • 2020 Iglesias Four-Seam Fastball - 38.2 percent usage, 28.1 whiff rate, 26.7 put away percentage

  • 2020 Iglesias Slider - 33.2 percent usage, 48.3 whiff rate, 20.8 put away percentage

  • 2020 Iglesias Change-up - 20.8 percent usage, 42 whiff rate, 21.4 put away percentage

Using his underlying data on Statcast, Iglesias increased his pitches in the strike zone (up 3.2 percent) while reducing contact in it (cut zone contact by 4.6 percent). Iglesias generated more ground balls (40.7 percent in 2020 versus 31.1 percent in 2019) while reducing fly balls by 5.9 percent. He also ranked in the 95th percentile or better in expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA), expected on-base percentage (xOBA), whiff percentage and expected ERA (xERA). 

While 2020 proves to be a limited sample, using Iglesias’ numbers from the second half of 2019 until the end of last season provides a clearer picture: 

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

Delving into his indicators, Iglesias ranked seventh among all qualified relievers in this time frame in strikeouts minus walks (K-BB) percentage at 31.1 percent. His SIERA placed sixth overall and his 16.1 swinging strike percentage came in at 18th overall. While the return on the trade seems light, Iglesias enters free agency at the end of the 2021 season so this signals the Angels will take on more salary in an attempt to qualify for the postseason while the Reds may trade a starting pitcher next: 

While this may take some time to materialize, the next logical question for the Reds: 

Who Closes in Cincinnati? 

This gets a bit more dicey than the situation for Iglesias in Los Angeles. Anyone who remembers the Brewers bullpen in 2018 coached by present Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson may be a bit worried. En route to a first place finish in Milwaukee, three relievers recorded at least 10 saves for the Brew Crew:

Johnson prefers managing relievers on a game-to-game match-up basis, not necessarily defined bullpen roles. Which leads us to the next tweet from the Reds front office:

Reports indicate both Michael Lorenzen and Tejay Antone will enter camp with a chance to win a spot in the rotation. A path which gets easier if the team trades Sonny Gray meaning it’s Luis Castillo and pray for rain for manager David Bell. All kidding aside, Tyler Mahle may be a terrific sleeper at his present price point in drafts but building the bullpen may take some patience. Using the same tenet above, here’s how the present Reds bullpen stacks up using the second half of 2019 through the end of last season for a comparison:

Two obvious names to move into the saves picture, Lucas Sims and Amir Garrett . Noted analyst points out the nasty curve displayed by Sims last season: 

As for Garrett, not only did he take on the Pirates dugout two years ago, he waxed poetic about his first career save in this interview:

It’s much too early to call a clubhouse leader for saves in this bullpen so it may take a patient approach to see how Cincinnati utilizes its arms this spring. Not the news one wishes to hear but the term fluid bullpen may be applicable to the Reds in 2021. Use the template of the 2018 Brewers if drafting before the New Year. Sleeper here would be Antone who excelled as a reliever and could blossom in the role if he does not make the Reds rotation. He’s my wild card in this scenario. Key on Antone’s SIERA, K-BB% and swinging strike percentage. 

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