Joakim Soria edging out Neftali Feliz for the closer role


March 14, 20014- Joakim Soria edging out Neftali Feliz for the closer role Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Surprise, Ariz – During the offseason the Texas Rangers knew they would be having auditions for their closer.  Joakim Soria, Tanner Scheppers and Neftali Feliz were the top three on that list.  The early favorite has been Neftali Feliz.  Feliz pitched very well in the Dominican Winter League posting and ERA of 2.79 over 9.2 inning.  He recorded 11 strike outs and allowed 2 walks.  Also, Tanner Scheppers had the benefit of being mentored by former Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan.  But, Joakim Soria is making his way to the top of this list.

Making his case: While Neftali Feliz has been struggling to get his command and velocity under control, Soria has been calm and steady.  Soria doesn’t have the same kind of high heat that Feliz brings, but instead is able to get outs using a mixture of his a fastball, slider and a curveball.  Soria’s fastball can range from about 87 MPH to about 94 MPH.  Which is about where Feliz is throwing right now, Feliz used to pitch near 99 MPH prior to Tommy John surgery.

By the numbers: Neftali Feliz has been less than stellar so far in spring training.  Feliz had weak velocity in his first outing only hitting around 88 MPH for his fastball.  That is down from what he did in winter ball when he was throwing near 98 MPH.  During his last game, Feliz was able to get his fastball in the low to mid 90’s, but it appeared that velocity wasn’t his only issue, it was also movement.  Soria, has remained the same since his first game.  He has been throwing around the same velocity, and has his command.  Reviewing the numbers shows that Soria is edging out Feliz.

Neftali Feliz

5 games/5 innings

  • 3.60 ERA
  • .318 opponents batting average
  • 7 hits
  • 2 earned runs
  • 1 walk
  • 2 strike out
  • 1 home run
  • 85 pitches/55 – 64.7

Joakim Soria

4 games/ 4 innings

  • 0.00 ERA
  • .143 opponents batting average
  • 2 hits
  • 0 earned runs
  • 0 walks
  • 3 strike out
  • 0 home runs
  • 58 pitches/42 – 72.4

Experience: Both Neftali Feliz and  Joakim Soria have experience in the closer role.  Feliz had the role prior to Joe Nathan in 2011.  Soria was the closer for the Kansas City Royals from 2007 until 2011.  Soria was very dominate in that role recorded at least 28 saves in each year from 2008 to 2011.  He had a career high of 43 in 2010.  Soria had Tommy John surgery in early 2012 causing him to miss the entire year.  Both Feliz and Soria are basically in the same situation of returning from surgery trying to win back the closer role.  Feliz has a save record of 84/94 (89.3%), which is just barely higher than Soria, who has a career saves record of 160 /180  (88.9%).

Washington hasn’t named a closer yet, and has basically called out Feliz and said that he’ll need to improve in order to be the closer.  The next few outings will be key for Soria and Feliz as they compete for the role.  If Soria can continue to be successful by keeping the opponents batting average down and not allowing any runs, he’ll make the decision easy for Ron Washington.  He was a great closer for Kansas City, looks like he might be for the Texas Rangers.