When the Angels traded for Raisel Iglesias to serve as their new closer, they did so understanding the risk that they could lose him to free agency after just a year with the club.
The Angels did see Iglesias hit the market, but they were able to bring him back in on a four-year, $58 million deal, and appear to have their closer position locked up through 2025.
If he wasn’t on a fantasy roster -- or if you just weren’t paying a ton of attention to the Angels outside of Shohei Ohtani’s legendary campaign -- you may have missed how good Iglesias was in 2021. The 31-year-old right-hander racked up 34 saves in 2021 alongside a 2.57 ERA, 0.929 WHIP, and 103/12 K/BB ratio in 70 innings after spending the previous six seasons as a member of the Reds. Those numbers are even more impressive considering he gave up eight runs in his first 11 appearances, and from May 8 on, Iglesias registered a 1.80 ERA with a 90/8 K/BB mark and converted 30 of 33 save chances.
So, the question now becomes can we expect more of the same from Iglesias in 2022, and it’s a tricky question to answer in one way, and not at all in another. Let’s focus on the easy positives first. There are 14 categories on Baseball Savant that the right-hander qualified for. Of those, Iglesias ranked above the 90th percentile in eight different categories, and he was above the 75th percentile in four others. The only metrics he ranked below average in were max exit velocity and barrel percentage, and you’d have to be really nitpicking to be too concerned about those rates. Simply put, Iglesias was dominant in avoiding bats and limiting self-inflicted damage, and there was nothing after the first month of 2021 that suggested that he can’t be as good again in 2022.
Unfortunately for Iglesias, there’s one matter that’s out of his control, and that’s how many save opportunities he’s going to get in 2022. Even if the Angels were guaranteed to be the best team in baseball, it’s hard to predict how many games they’re going to win by three or fewer runs. This is true about all closers, to be fair, but it’s something you have to be cognizant of.
And, of course, there’s no guarantee that the Angels are going to be good in 2022. Yes there’s the fact that the Angels have the reigning MVP in Ohtani plus the (hopeful) return of a healthy Mike Trout along with Anthony Rendon is nice. But the division looks tough, and the starting pitching -- even if Noah Syndergaard is the same pitcher he was prior to Tommy John surgery -- still leaves a lot to be desired along with a lineup that could (should) be considered top heavy rather than complete. There’s still a lot of quality players left on the market, but it’s fair to say that this roster doesn’t look like one of the best in the American League, and you have to factor that in when considering where to draft Iglesias.
Long story short, even if Iglesias doesn’t get 45 or so save chances, his ability to miss bats while posting solid rates across the board make him one of the best relief options for the 2022 season. It’d just be nice to guarantee that the Angels are going to provide enough save chances to guarantee he’s a top five -- or better -- option this summer.
Quick Hits: Kyle Seager has announced his retirement from baseball. The news was revealed via his wife Julie's personal Twitter account on Wednesday afternoon … Terry Francona told Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe on Wednesday that he plans to return as manager of the Cleveland Guardians next season … Rio Ruiz has signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization … Athletics signed RHP Justin Grimm to a minor league contract.