Neftali Feliz burst onto the scene last season, posting a 1.74 ERA, 39 strikeouts, and a 0.68 WHIP in 20 relief appearances for the Rangers. A top starting prospect in the minors, it seems that Feliz would have very little value to standard fantasy leagues if he doesn't earn a spot in the starting rotation for the Rangers. This leaves me with 2 questions:
- What are the chances that Feliz will earn a starting rotation spot for the Rangers?
- Does he have value for fantasy purposes if he doesn't?
According to the Rangers' depth chart on MLB.COM, Feliz is currently listed as a member of the bullpen. The depth chart also lists 7 pitchers in the current starting rotation:
- Rich Harden
- Scott Feldman
- Colby Lewis
- Derek Holland
- Tommy Hunter
- Brandon McCarthy
- Matt Harrison
A gaggle of candidates are in Surprise, Ariz., now to compete for that spot. The current foursome does not include a left-hander, possibly giving an early edge to Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and C.J. Wilson. But general manager Jon Daniels has made it clear that the best pitcher will get the job and it won't simply be handed to a lefty.
The good news for the Rangers is that this shows how much more depth they've developed among the pitching staff. Besides Holland, Harrison and Wilson, Brandon McCarthy will get a shot to compete. So will flamethrower Neftali Feliz. Doug Mathis and Dustin Nippert are probably more long-relief options.
He's going to be given a chance it sounds like, but I would be surprised if he won the job. He's going to have to outpitch that group, and overcome the fact that the first 4 starters are also right-handed like Feliz. But that doesn't mean he is without value for fantasy purposes.
Feliz posted a 11.32 strikeout per 9 rate in his limited appearances in 2009, and I think that he could conceivably top that if he's left in the bullpen. He's not slated to be the closer, as that job is Frank Francisco's. But if you're employing a strategy which involves punting saves, Feliz is a pitcher I would definitely target. He's going to strikeout between 11 and 12 batters per 9 I believe, and will probably be the first or second in line for saves for the Rangers if he stays in the bullpen. He's going to provide value regardless of the role he plays for the Rangers, and is worth watching in Spring Training.