By: Rich Arleo 

CBS Local Sports, in our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.

Raisel Iglesias, Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds

2014 season: DNP

This spring, Reds manager Bryan Price became one of the first skippers to officially lay out his entire rotation, even though there were expected to be plenty of questions after Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake. And to the surprise of many, Cuban signee Raisel Iglesias, despite only pitching in the Arizona Fall League and this spring training after the Reds signed him in late-June of last year, was named the No. 5 starter.

Now, this likely won’t be permanent, as Homer Bailey will miss the start of the season but is expected to return sometime in April. But it still shows how impressed the organization is with Iglesias and how confident it is in his stuff despite seeing very little of him.

Iglesias had a 3.05 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 30 games in Cuba in 2012 before defecting, and he landed a seven-year contract with the Reds but did not pitch in the Minor Leagues. He made his professional debut stateside in the Arizona Fall League, where he shined for the Surprise Saguaros, allowing just one hit while striking out seven in seven innings against some of MLB’s top young talent.

This spring, Iglesias gave up a three-run homer to Brett Lawrie in his first inning of work, then quickly adjusted and has been lights-out since. Through his first five appearances, Iglesias had 10 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings, and he will be stretched out a bit in the final few weeks of spring leading up to the regular season.

There’s no telling what happens when Bailey returns, but it would be a bit of a surprise if Iglesias sticks in the rotation if everyone else stays healthy, unless Jason Marquis can’t follow up on his impressive spring. The Reds like Anthony DeSclafani, as he was the centerpiece of the Mat Latos trade and has looked good this spring, so he will likely be given a long leash as a starter.

The question is whether or not Iglesias is moved to the bullpen or stays a starter and is sent down to the Minors. Iglesias is a four-pitch pitcher with a 94-96 mph fastball, a slider, curveball and his most recently developed pitch, a changeup. This is part of the reason Price decided to give him a crack in the rotation, and he would likely have to lose at least one of those pitches and change his technique if he moves to the ‘pen. The Reds are also pretty deep with relievers and recently decided to move Tony Cingrani to the bullpen as well, so all signs seem to point to him being sent down should the time come. And given the fact that he has yet to pitch in a Minor League game, that might not be the worst idea.

The Reds are actually in a similar situation with Iglesias as they were a few years ago with his teammate, Leake, who was the club’s first-round pick in 2009 and didn’t pitch in the Minors that year. He pitched in the AFL and then made the rotation as a rookie in ‘10. Leake tossed a few innings in the Minors in ‘11, but has become one of Cincy’s most reliable pitchers over the past two years. Given the history with Leake, who’s to say Iglesias doesn’t end up sticking in the Majors the entire year if he pitches well out of the gate?

No matter what, we are guaranteed (barring injury) to see this promising young right-hander in the Majors this year and Reds fans, fantasy owners and baseball fans everywhere will be tuning in to see what he can do.

Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo 

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