During Jeff Luhnow’s first two years as General Manager, the Astros have signed low-cost veterans to aid in the development of young players. This off season, however, Luhnow has the financial flexibility to acquire players that can stabilize the team and bridge the gap for some highly regarded prospects. Shortly after trading for outfielder Dexter Fowler, the Astros were able to sign a 9-year veteran named Scott Feldman.
Originally drafted by the Houston Astros in the 41st round of the 2002 draft, Feldman decided to sign a contract with the Texas Rangers after the 2003 amateur draft. He did not pitch much during the 2003 or 2004 seasons as he sustained an injury leading to Tommy John surgery. The 2005 season saw him move quickly through the Rangers minor league system as a reliever. Feldman made his MLB debut as a September call-up and posted a 0.96 ERA in 9 1/3 innings of work.
Though he has been around the major leagues for nine years, Feldman has only accumulated seven years of service time as he has shuffled between the bullpen, starting rotation, and minor leagues for most of his career. His breakthrough season was a year after the Rangers converted him to a starting pitcher. In the 2009 campaign, Feldman recorded a 17-8 record via a 4.08 ERA and 189 2/3 innings pitched. Since then, inconsistencies have Feldman being worse than league average to just better than league average.
The offseason following the 2012 season was Feldman’s first as a free agent. He signed a 1-year deal worth $6 million with the Chicago Cubs. He was then traded mid-season to the Baltimore Orioles contributing his stability to help the team make a run for the postseason. With 30 starts split evenly between the National League and American League, Feldman managed a 12-12 record with a 3.86 ERA and was consistent in both halves. In 15 starts with the Cubs he recorded 91 innings while in 15 starts with the Orioles he pitched 90 2/3 innings.
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This consistency is why Jeff Luhnow signed Scott Feldman to a 3-year deal worth $30 million. The Houston Astros need a solid veteran to help stabilize the team for the 2014 season. The extra two years on the contract also ensure that Feldman is able to settle into his new home ballpark. Another benefit is that Feldman can bridge the gap as highly regarded pitching prospects are brought up to the major league team. With his career experience out of the bullpen, Feldman can possibly become a member of the bullpen and be a solid spot starter when needed during the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
The pitch repertoire that Feldman utilizes is a balanced five pitch mix. Fangraphs shows that fastballs and sliders are most commonly used. He regularly throws curve balls and change ups to help keep hitters off balance. Though he is not highly regarded as a strike-out pitcher, his cut fastball does result in nearly 25% of his strikeouts. This is likely his best pitch as hitters managed only a .168 average against his cutter during the 2013 season.
There is a lot of speculation that Feldman will pitch Opening Day against the New York Yankees. He does have an opening day nod under his belt, thanks to his 2009 campaign with the Texas Rangers, and earned a no decision in that start. During his time in 2013 with the Orioles, Feldman threw two quality starts but was 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA against the Yankees.
Perhaps this time around Feldman will help the Astros earn their second Opening Day win in a row.