February 06, 2009
To prepare you for the upcoming draft season, the Noise, every Friday until opening day, will feature a lesser-known prospect that has excellent odds of making an indelible fantasy impact this season. Obvious products David Price and Matt Wieters, and charitable Bon Jovi songs, need not apply.
It's no secret: fantasy owners are attracted to strikeout pitchers like impeached former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is injurious television interviews. We adore them, even those who relish joyrides with firearms.
For those unfamiliar, be prepared to fall head over heels for virtual baseball's latest riveting flamethrower, Texas' Neftali Feliz.
Acquired from Atlanta in the Mark Teixeira deal, the 20-year-old has wowed front office personnel, including team president Nolan Ryan, with his frightening high-90s fastball. At one point last season, the Dominican's eyelash-singeing heater was clocked at 102-mph. That knockout pitch coupled with a developing secondary arsenal (breaking ball, change) and effortless delivery points to a future full of fantasy owner restraining orders. According to Rangers GM Jon Daniels, Feliz is more polished than most revered power pitchers at a similar age. Per Lone Star Baseball:
"There are plenty of guys who can light up a radar gun. There are two things that stand out with Neftali and how he does it. One is the ease with which he throws the ball with very little effort. Some big flame-throwing guys have very unsound mechanics in order to generate all that force behind the ball. It almost looks like Neftali is playing catch and the ball just explodes out of his hand...Secondly, a lot of guys who throw with that velocity can't command it. The pitch might be 97, 98 on the radar gun, but it's a foot out of the strike zone. When you actually have to throw a strike, it's much more hittable at 91, 92. Neftali has shown to this point that he's able to throw a strike with that velocity."
Last year between Single- and Double-A, Feliz mowed down opposing hitters. In 127.1 combined innings, he totaled 153 strikeouts and posted a sparkling 2.69 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.
Command over his secondary pitches is still evolving, evident in his 3.61 BB/9 last year, but his very impressive 46.1 GB% and 0.21 HR/9 are laudable. Because Feliz can locate his fastball with above average accuracy, he's drawn substantial weak contact, a highly admirable trait when considering his future home is Rangers Ballpark.
Scott Servais, director of player development for Texas, divulged to the Dallas Morning News in late-January Feliz and Derek Holland, who will be the subject of a future "Farm Aid," could make the big league club at some point this season. Both have been invited to spring training. Looking at the forgettable names currently projected to break camp with rotation gigs (Dustin Nippert, Matt Harrison and Scott Feldman) Feliz's chances of making an immediate impact are favorable.
At this point, he's a low-risk, high-reward selection any time after Round 20 in 12-team mixed leagues. He'll likely start the season in the high minors, but, as the weather warms, whispers about his already legendary fastball will grow into screams, especially in a game where bazooka arms are worshipped.
Do you have plans to stash Feliz? Discuss below.
Image courtesy of Flickr