Neftali Feliz: The Closer
By R.J. Anderson
When it comes to early-season role shuffling, Neftali Feliz to the closer’s spot in Texas is as big a maneuver as you’ll ever find. Ignore whether or not it’s the right real-world call for the Rangers, and just focus on the facts:
– Feliz is 21 years old.
– He throws fire.
– He’s one of baseball’s top prospects.
Those three reasons alone are enough to give him fantasy value. Add in the extra pleasure of getting saves credit for his appearances, and the decision has made some fantasy owners downright giddy. It’s hard to project just how good he will be and the worrisome part is that no timetable on his closing efforts is being publicly made. That means that owners of Feliz have two choices:
1. Ride the tidal wave and hope the Rangers don’t move him to the rotation, or away from the ninth inning.
2. Let him rack up even more hype, then ship him off, and hope the Rangers realize he’s wasting away in a closer’s spot, since he’ll likely provide more real-life value (if not necessarily more fantasy value) as a starting pitcher.
It’s a difficult call. How many saves could Feliz rack up, anyway? Last year, Frank Francisco recorded 25 saves, which led the Rangers, but C.J. Wilson also tallied 14, and four others had at least one, including Feliz. All told, there were 45 saves recorded. The Rangers won fewer games in 2008 and as a result only racked up 36 saves, although team quality did not stop the 2007 Rangers from topping 40 saves once more.
Skeptics might speculate that Feliz is too young, too new, and too untried to wage war in the 9th. They have no idea what they’re talking about. In 34 career big league innings, Feliz has per nine ratios of 11.8 strikeouts and 2.6 walks. During his time at Triple-A, mostly as a starter, he posted about a strikeout per inning, and his career minor league numbers are 325 strikeouts in 276 innings. He’s got the stuff to miss bats and produce outs, even in high-leverage situations.
If Feliz is the full-time closer from here on out, he’s getting something like 35-40 chances for a save. That’s valuable, but it’s not like another closer’s job won’t change hands and lead to a similar opportunity before the month of May is even upon us. So, depending on the needs of your team, and the offer quality presented, you could either ride the wave or ship Feliz out for a king’s ransom.
Either way, Feliz could win you a title. If your league has weekly transactions and Feliz isn’t owned yet, use that number-one waiver claim, or empty your FAAB account.