Key Stats: In his rookie season Feliz was a closer that notched 40 saves and struck out over a batter per inning, while walking only 2.3 per nine. He did this with a 96 mph fastball that he routinely kept up and in on hitters. His tERA and SIERA were right in line with his actual ERA showing us his ERA was an accurate measure of how he pitched. In the Spring of 2011 the Rangers toyed with the idea of moving him to rotation and started to “stretch him out”. They changed their mind, he flip flopped on what he wanted to do. He went back to the pen…
Skeptics Say: His K/9 dropped by 1.5, his BB/9 went up by 2, his first pitch strike percentage dropped by 4. His ERA was almost identical to 2010 (2.74 in ’11, 2.73 in ’10) but his xFIP was over 4 and SIERA was 3.91. His control problem didn’t exactly appear out of nowhere either as he had double digit walk percentages all throughout the minors. Will the real Neftali Feliz please stand up?
Peer Comparison: This might seem like a cop out, but why re-invent the wheel? Fellow FB365 writer Josh Shepardson wrote an article not too long ago about Feliz in which he drew a comparison to Brandon Morrow. Fangraphs contributor Mike Podhorzer drew comparisons to Tom Gorzelanny here.
Team Outlook: With the Rangers signing Joe Nathan a move to the rotation seems written in stone. The Rangers will still have a potent offense that should provide Feliz with plenty of run support.
What They’re Saying: There are still early projections and were made before the Rangers picked up Nathan. I’m betting they will change before the season starts. CBS Sportsline: #10 Relief Pitcher; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #10 Relief Pitcher & #127 Overall; RotoChamp: #124 Overall
Projection: The Rangers have a good track record of moving guys from the pen to the rotation (see C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando). Looking at the breakdown from the two articles linked above, Feliz should pitch well in 2012, but we need to watch out as his innings will probably be limited. Make sure you have a backup plan for when he gets a start skipped or if they have to shut him down late in the year. The high ERA i project for him is due to his tendancy to give up fly balls, and pitching more innings in Arlington could lead to some long ball problems.
10 W, 4.10 ERA, 132 K, 1.35 WHIP in 160 IP.