March 6, 2015
Originally signed by the Atlanta Braves in 2005, Feliz has already had an eventful career despite the fact he’s yet to turn 27 years old. Once an intriguing 18-year-old with a 98-mph fastball, Feliz went on to be part of a package of prospects along with Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Matt Harrison that brought Mark Teixeira to Atlanta in 2007. His prospect status jumped in his first season in the Texas organization as he posted a 2.69 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 153 strikeouts in 127 1/3 innings over 27 games (all starts) between two levels. When the Rangers needed bullpen help the next year, they tabbed Feliz in August and he dominated in relief for 20 games: 1.74 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 31 innings, 39 strikeouts, .124 AVG allowed. Despite hype surrounding Feliz, in the same way it did Joba Chamberlain, as his ultimate role had become a debate nationwide, Texas made him the closer in 2010 and he won the Rookie of the Year award while setting the record for saves by a rookie with 40 (Craig Kimbrel broke the record a year later). Feliz prepared for the 2011 season in spring training as a starter, throwing the second most innings of any Rangers pitcher in camp, but despite rumblings about his role coming from everywhere and the Rangers losing Cliff Lee, he went back to the bullpen. One immensely disappointing World Series defeat later, the Rangers finally thought it really was time to move Feliz (back) to the rotation. He lasted seven starts before he was shut down and had Tommy John surgery weeks later, missing most of ’12-13.
What Went Right in 2014
It was just for a month, but Feliz looked good in September. His fastball was up to 96 mph, and he was untouched in nine innings, as he allowed just four hits and three walks while striking out seven and picking up six saves.
What Went Wrong in 2014
Feliz didn’t get off to the start he’d hoped for last year. He failed to make the major league team out of spring training despite the Rangers’ lack of bullpen depth. He pitched well at Triple-A, but didn’t pick up his first save there until June. When he returned to the majors in July, he hardly looked like the old Feliz as his stuff was clearly diminished. He allowed five home runs in his first 18 appearances.
What to Expect in 2015
As the table below shows, PECOTA expects Feliz to repeat his 2011 output, the last time he was both healthy and used exclusively as a reliever.
Feliz is unlikely to be the 2010-version of himself again as he no longer has the plus command and 80-grade fastball he did when he first broke into the majors, but if he can manage to stay healthy this projection should be the goal.
Feliz’ NFBC ADP is 175, which is 21st among relievers and right where he should be going. Feliz was only good for a short stretch last year and has thrown just 79 major-league innings over the past three seasons, but it’s still difficult not to like him more than Addison Reed, Santiago Casilla, and pitchers of their ilk this year.
The Great Beyond
While predicting any reliever a year out presents difficulties, Feliz’ injury history is its own quandary to consider and makes the great beyond seem even foggier and more out of reach. There’s no telling how much longer Feliz will be the guy we saw last September. We just know that the Rangers and some fantasy owners are counting on it.