Two National League Arms on the Rise

I’ve got two guys in the Senior Circuit – one for all formats and one for deep-leaguers particularly – who I think could have big seasons in 2016 while costing you relatively little on draft day (especially the second guy). I’ve done two drafts already (I know, right?) and the earliest either of these two went was the 10th round of a 15-teamer so even some winter helium isn’t going to send them into the cost-prohibitive territory where they have to perform to return value.

Raisel Iglesias, CIN – pick 165 (to me) in early November, pick 147 from a draft last week

Iglesias was one of those guys who probably landed on three or four teams throughout the course of the season in your league with the best work coming for whoever had him last.

There were questions about his role in Spring Training so he likely went undrafted in plenty of leagues. He ended up in the rotation for the sixth game of the season, but was immediately shipped out to Triple-A after a modest debut (5 IP/3 ER). He spent a month down there and then rejoined the rotation with an 8 IP/1 ER gem before going right back into the bullpen.

Two relief appearances and two starts later he was back in Triple-A where he hung out for two starts before finally returning to the rotation for good. That first start back was trash (4.3 IP/5 ER), but some semblance of stability seemed to get Iglesias going as he really impressed on the whole in those final 12 starts of the season. The 3.82 ERA during that run doesn’t jump off the page, but the skills were excellent: 0.99 WHIP, 28% K rate, 7% BB rate, and 53% GB rate in 70.7 IP. There was also a three-game stretch of double-digit strikeout games including a season-high 13 against Arizona.

If there was a fly in ointment during his hot streak, it was some gopheritis. He allowed 1.3 HR/9 with only three homer-free outings, but that’s fixable, especially with his groundball lean. In fact, I’m more bummed that his season ended prematurely with shoulder fatigue than homer issue because his slight frame has led to questions about whether or not he can take 30+ turns in a season. The fatigue might’ve been overplayed as an easy reason to cap his innings, too. He threw 124.3 between MLB and Triple-A, a jump of 117 from 2014 when the only record of him pitching is 7 IP in the Arizona Fall League.

Even if you’re not necessarily concerned about him handling a full-season workload in the long-term, he’s unlikely to do so in 2016 just because the innings increase would be too severe, especially on a team that is in the midst of a rebuild. You can understand why the Mets were willing to push Matt Harvey on his innings, but it’s tough to envision a scenario where the Reds would need Iglesias to go more than 160ish innings.

Pros:

  • Has mid-90s heat in his back pocket (works 92-93 with movement, but peaked at 96-97)
  • Devastating strikeout slider (45% K% – 10th among all pitchers w/450+ throw; 6th among SP-only)
  • True three-pitch mix including a changeup to keep LHB at bay (they hit his FB, but had nothing for the CH or SL)
  • Keeps the ball down with a 47% GB rate, including that 53% clip down the stretch

Cons:

  • Innings very likely to be capped again in 2016
  • HR issue in a HR-friendly park could present issues, though his issues were on the road (0.8, 1.3 HR/9 home, road split)
  • Ended ’15 with shoulder fatigue feeding into durability questions

Outlook:

  • Shouldn’t be higher than your fourth or fifth starter depending on league size, but can still put up a top-30 season in 160-something innings (Tanaka was 22nd in 154 IP). Don’t get hung up on the innings even if you’re in a H2H league, though. Trying to project May while in March is ridiculously difficult, let alone looking ahead to September. Yeah, he might not be there for your playoffs, but he will be a key factor to getting you into the playoffs.

Adam Conley, MIA – didn’t go in Nov.*, pick 380 last week

*that draft is a 50-round draft & hold where we finished 23 rounds live in Arizona and then do the other 27 online so Conley will go and probably around the same time as the 30-round draft from last week for Rotowire’s magazine.

Conley might not have hit your radar in 2015. He wasn’t a highly-touted prospect and he plays for the embarrassment in Miami that most people stop paying attention to once Giancarlo Stanton has his annual injury. His stock took a major hit after a washout 2014 (elbow injury limited him to 65 IP), and so he spent the early part of 2015 regaining his velocity at Triple-A.

For some reason Miami thought he needed 107 innings to do that as he was given meager tastes of the bigs with a relief appearance in June and a spot-start in July before finally sticking with the team from August 1st through the end of the season. They eased him in with some multi-inning relief appearances before closing with 10 starts during which he had a 3.69 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 23% K, and 7% BB in 53.3 IP.

The WHIP was elevated by his reverse platoon splits as lefties just clobbered his fastball. Of course, he only faced 30 of them in 10 starts so small sample size caveats are needed here as I doubt the .421 BABIP will maintain over a full season. The slider was his strikeout pitch during the run and it still handled lefties in a scant 9 PA while the fastball and changeup combined for a 1.197 OPS and .500 BABIP in 21 PA.

The fastball has major upside and we saw it in action against righties. They managed just a .670 OPS with a 26% K rate in 110 PA during the 10 starts. Even factoring in the damage that lefties did, his fastball had the 10th-best K% (24%) and 14th-best OPS (.708) from August 12th on which marks the beginning of the 10-start run. He had one of the best fastball spin rates last year, on par with Chris Sale’s, which bodes well for continued success against righties and should help him improve against lefties. He also showed more of a groundball lean in the minors which could come into play as he fully settles in at the big league level, though it’s not as necessary in a park like Miami’s.

Pros:

  • Strong fastball (91-92 velo doesn’t wow, but spin rate enhances it big time and mid-90s peaks could return)
  • Two true secondary offerings (usage – changeup: 20%, slider: 15%)
  • No platoon split in the minors (.626/.656 v. LH/RH, respectively)
  • Off-the-radar so investing is a low-risk (no-risk?) proposition

Con: (there’s only one and while it is huge, it is mitigated by the fact that he costs virtually nothing)

  • Unproven (wasn’t a top prospect, lacks premium stuff when the heat isn’t mid-90s, and 67 IP is still a tiny sample)

Outlook:

  • He was a reserve pick in one of the 15-teamers I did and he’ll be the same in the on-going draft once it restarts. That means he’s unlikely to be drafted in 10- and 12-teamers, but I’d still be willing to reserve him in the latter. At the very least, he should be on your watch list.

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Rob
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Rob

In a keeper, assuming the same prices across the board, would you keep Raisel, Berrios, or Verlander?

Can’t make up my mind because of what each represents; solid veteran with a track record, young pitcher with success in a short sample, or top prospect with no exposure?