Thursday, April 16, 2009

Peep this Prospect: Neftali Feliz

Meet Neftali Feliz. You don't know him yet, but you will.

21 years old, 6'3", 180 lbs, Feliz hails from the Dominican Republic and was traded to the Texas Rangers as a part of the original Mark Teixeira deal. The only thing is that Feliz might have more upside and long-term value than any other piece, Tex included, in that deal. Also note: Atlanta gave up Elvis Andrus, Texas current starting SS, in that same deal. Ouch.

Let's backtrack to 2007. As a 19 year old, Feliz spent time in short-season ball and rookie A ball. He pitched a total of 42 innings, striking out 55 and posting an ERA of 2.55 and a WHIP of 1.299. That's a K/9 rate of 11.7, and a K/BB rate of 2.29, mind you.

Accordingly, expectations were high for Feliz going into the 2008 season. It was to be his first full season of professional ball. It was expected that Feliz would be forced to make adjustments as he moved up the organizational chain and hitters got tougher. Yeah. So check out what he did in A ball:

82 IP, 106 Ks, 2.52 ERA, 1.012 WHIP, K/9 rate of 11.6, K/BB rate of 3.79.

So, facing better hitters, Feliz struck out more, put fewer on bases, and improved his K/BB ratio. Not half bad. Texas promoted him to AA ball midseason, and this was his line:

45 IP, 47 Ks, 2.98 ERA, 1.257 WHIP, K/9 rate of 9.3; K/BB rate of 2.04.

For a twenty year old in AA, those are some crazy good numbers. Texas started him out in AAA this year, and some expect him to be a full-time fixture in the rotation in 2010. Here is what Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein says about Feliz:

His highly anticipated full-season debut in '08 exceeded all expectations; Feliz dominated all the way up to Double-A, and now stands on the brink of making it to the major leagues...Feliz has one of the best pure arms in the minors, sitting in the mid- to upper 90s with his fastball, frequently touching triple digits, and also featuring late movement.
The scouting report on Feliz is that he throws a low 80s, 10-4 slurve, and a rudimentary changeup to compliment his plus-plus fastball. 2009 will be a good time for him to develop that crucial third pitch.

Here is a slow mo video of Feliz's delivery. It's free and easy, baby.

We are adding Feliz to the Wieters Watch, along with Price. He'll be loads of fun to watch in 2009. His first start:

4 IP, 4H, 6BB, 4Ks. No runs.

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