After a failed attempt to flee the country in September, righthander Raisel Iglesias has left Cuba.
Iglesias, 23, will be exempt from the international bonus pools and be able to sign without restrictions once he is granted residency in a third country and cleared to sign by Major League Baseball and the United States government.
Major league scouts (and Baseball America) have been able to see Iglesias pitch in person outside of Cuba twice this year. At the World Baseball Classic in March, Iglesias pitched at 88-92 mph. When Cuba visited the U.S. in July for a five-game friendship series against the U.S. College national team, Iglesias looked more impressive, throwing 92-95 mph while varying the speed and shape of his sweepy 76-81 mph breaking ball to get swings and misses.
In three relief appearances in the series, Iglesias struck out five over five scoreless innings with no walks and only one hit allowed. Earlier that month, Iglesias also pitched in the Netherlands at the World Port Tournament, where he threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, no walks and two hits allowed with three saves in his three relief appearances.
"I think he's a guy that, as he gets bigger and stronger, could be in the mid-to-upper 90s," said Team USA coach Jim Schlossnagle, who is also the coach at Texas Christian. "He's lean, has a ridiculously loose arm and pounded the strike zone. I was glad they didn't pitch him more. He was the guy where you're like, 'Let's find a way to get a lead before they get to this guy.' "
At 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, Iglesias was primarily used as a reliever in Cuba. A major league team would likely use him in the same role, although he could start his career being developed as a starter. He would likely start his career in the minors, and given his age (he turns 24 on April 1) and current talent level, Double-A would seem like a possible assignment.
In Cuba, Iglesias pitched for Isla de la Juventud in Serie Nacional. In the 2012-13 season split that was split into two phases, Iglesias made two starts in 15 appearances and posted a 1.68 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 20 walks in 53 2/3 innings. He didn’t have as much success in the second half, when he had a 5.59 ERA with a 24-10 K-BB mark over 29 innings in 15 appearances, all in relief. Iglesias has had issues with his control earlier in his career. During the 2011-12 season, he walked more batters (54) than he struck out (53) in 76 2/3 innings while posting a 3.29 ERA.
International sources have said Bart Hernandez and Praver Shapiro Sports Management will represent Iglesias.