Rotoprofessor’s Prospect Watch – Neftali Feliz & Derek Holland
Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor
The Texas Rangers, a team that always seems to have problems finding capable arms for their rotation, suddenly seems to have a tremendous crop of prospects closing in on making a huge impact at the major league level. Two of those prospects, Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz, are not only tremendous prospects, but among the best in the sport right now.
Honestly, you can basically flip a coin in deciding which one has the brightest future. That’s how close they are. That’s how special they could be. It wouldn’t surprise me to see both of them making an impact at the major league level before 2009 comes to a close, so let’s take a look at what each player has to offer.
Just 20-years old, Feliz pitched at Single & Double A in 2008 and was extremely impressive at each stop. Overall he went 10-6 with a 2.69 ERA. If that wasn’t enough, over 127.1 innings he struck out 153 batters while walking just 51. You want something that could be even better? Opposing batters hit just .201 against him.
Simply amazing and the sky appears to be the limit for this youngster who Baseball America had pegged as the franchises #5 prospect prior to 2008. He obviously isn’t going to be that low prior to 2009 given the type of season he had. They did promote him as the organizations best fastball, which I’ve seen reports saying that he can get it up to 98 mph.
The Rangers didn’t draft him, instead acquiring him in part of the Mark Teixeira trade, a deal that soon could look like an absolute steal for the Rangers (they also acquired Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison and Beau James as part of the deal). Feliz was not one of the primary names in the deal, with people focusing on Saltalamacchia and Andrus before him. In the end, however, he could prove to be the best of the bunch.
In 2007 he only pitched a total of 42.1 innings, making 16 appearances (8 starts). He went 2-2 in those games, between Rookie League and Single A, posting a 2.55 ERA. The power arm was evident though, striking out 55 over 42.1 innings, giving fans a sign of things to come.
There is no doubt in my mind that he starts the season in the minor leagues, I think that much is guaranteed. In fact, turning just 21-years old on May 2, 2009, the Rangers could keep him in the minor leagues for a few months. Innings could also become a factor in ‘09, which certainly would limit his potential impact. Still, he’s a player to watch because of how high a ceiling he possesses.
Having not even been ranked by Baseball America among the team’s Top 10 prospects prior to 2008, Holland had a meteoric rise through the system after being drafted in Round 25 of the 2006 draft and pitching just 67 innings in 2007. He pitched for two levels at Single A, as well as Double A, finishing with 150.2 innings thrown and getting better as he moved up the ladder.
He finished going 13-1 with a 2.27 ERA, striking out 157 while walking just 40. He gave up just 3 HR and allowed opposing hitters to hit just .209 against him.
Those are extremely impressive, but what he did in his 4 starts at Double A was even more unbelievable. He went 26 innings giving up just 2 earned runs. That’s right, when you do the math it is an ERA of 0.69. He struck out 29 while walking just 6 and allowing 14 hits.
The lefty is said to throw in the low 90’s and I’m just not sure what there is not to like about him. I have heard he needs a little bit more work on his secondary pitches, but that certainly will come. He simply hasn’t thrown that many minor league innings and he needs time to get things in order. It makes sense.
If you want to read more about his Double A debut, a game that he went 8 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 walk, striking out 10, check out the report from Jamey Newberg here. It gives you an idea of just how dominant he could be.
He’s older Feliz and given the number of innings he threw last season, has the potential to throw significantly more innings then him. That makes him a better bet to make an impact in 2009 and a pitcher that all keeper league owners should certainly target. I’d be surprised if he started the season with the big league club, but his time will certainly come. Yearly league owners should be ready to pounce, even though he pitches for the Rangers. I don’t think you are going to be disappointed.
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