The tale of Neftali Feliz is an interesting one to tell.
Back in 2007, when the Rangers agreed on the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta, Neftali Feliz was merely a young arm that could light up a radar gun — the type of prospect with a high ceiling but conversely, a very low floor. Of course, it wasn’t too long until Feliz became a prospect to keep an eye on.
Brandishing an easy and smooth delivery with a searing 100 mph fastball, Feliz was supposed to be durable, Feliz was supposed to be unflappable, but most of all, Feliz was supposed to have what it takes to become an ace.
What in the hell happened?
Bloated expectations. The idea of what Feliz could be determinately sounded the fall of the gavel on the inception of this false dream.
In all reality, Neftali Feliz hasn’t developed much at all from his prospect days as a pure thrower. Of course, injuries have not helped, but the fact of the matter is that brandishing 100 mph heat, and not much anything else, can only get a pitcher so far.
It is actually quite difficult to fathom how Feliz has made it this far in his baseball career without having at least one consistent secondary offering — Neftali Feliz’s fastball is not only his bread and butter, but also his water, oxygen, etc. — it is truly an extremely dominant pitch. If anything, the upside that Rangers personnel saw in the possibility of Neftali Feliz becoming a top of the rotation pitcher is understandable, but more something along the lines of trying to force a wish — the full package was, and still is, simply nonexistent.
That is not to say that Neftali Feliz isn’t a valuable pitcher to employ, because he most certainly is, but the thoughts of Feliz effectively transitioning into the starting rotation are just that: thoughts.
Neftali Feliz will more than likely find a stable career, dependent on health, in the back-end of the bullpen — the starting rotation experiment is likely over, and objectively speaking, Feliz truly has nowhere to go but up.
Given his track record, advanced metrics have shown a consistent deterioration in Feliz’s true effectiveness starting from 2009 — the year of Feliz’s MLB debut.
- 2009: 31.0 IP — 1.74 ERA — 11.32 K/9 — 2.32 BB/9 — 2.48 FIP
- 2010: 69.1 IP — 2.73 ERA — 9.22 K/9 — 2.34 BB/9 — 2.96 FIP
- 2011: 62.1 IP — 2.74 ERA — 7.80 K/9 — 4.33 BB/9 — 3.57 FIP
- 2012: 42.2 IP — 3.16 ERA — 7.80 K/9 — 4.85 BB/9 — 4.64 FIP
The most obvious reason for Feliz’s consistent deterioration in terms of effectiveness exists in Feliz surrendering a heightened rate of walks, and during the starting rotation experiment, the flaws of Neftali Feliz became even more apparent, mostly due to a starting pitcher’s need to throw more secondary pitches, as opposed to pitching out of the bullpen, in which a reliever can find success with simply one or two above-average pitches.
So the question is, can Neftali Feliz indeed resurrect his career as the closer of the Texas Rangers?
Most certainly yes.
It is a shame that Feliz could never harness the necessary command to fulfill his assigned role in the starting rotation nor avoid long stints on the DL (whether it be the fault of the organization along Feliz’s development or questions of Feliz’s work ethic, or some combination of both, it is irrelevant — this isn’t that kind of article), but it isn’t inconceivable that Feliz could return to his 2010 form.
Relievers are rather volatile, yet easy to find, which is why Feliz is probably such a disheartening case for the Rangers — the disappointment does not stem from what Feliz is, rather what he could have been.
But regardless of whether or not Neftali Feliz can rise to revamp his career, he will always be synonymous with the magical season of 2010.
Still gives me the chills.