Will Feliz start or relieve for the Houston Astros?
When the Houston Astros traded Vincent Velasquez and Mark Appel in the Ken Giles trade, one person had to gain the most with that trade. While Velasquez would have been the fifth guy if he was not traded, there was an outside chance that Appel could have won the job as well. Looking from the outside could have been Michael Feliz, who bounced back between the rotation in Double-A and the Astros’ bullpen in 2015. Could Feliz’s cup of tea with the Astros in 2015 help him win the full-time rotation gig in 2016?
With Feliz’s stuff, many people predict that he will either be a hard-throwing reliever or a top of the rotation pitcher in the big leagues. With his stint in the big leagues, fans are probably not thrilled with the results, but he did skip Triple-A last year. He has been a starter for most of his career in the minors, so he probably was not accustomed to pitching out of the pen. He also was used very seldom in the playoff stretch, just there for when a long-man role was needed.
Past Astros All-Time top pitchers got their start out of the Astros bullpen, including Shane Reynolds and Roy Oswalt. The Astros are very aware of Feliz’s talent as they almost didn’t protect him in the 2014 Rule V draft. There was so much uproar around baseball and fans alike questioning this decision that near the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster, the Houston Astros did add him. In his short stint in the bullpen, he showed a little bit of homer prone with a 7.88 ERA and allowing two homers in eight total innings.
In his short stint in the bullpen, he showed a little bit of homer prone with a 7.88 ERA and allowing two homers in eight total innings. He did not allow home runs the same rate in the minors, allowing an estimated .50 homers per nine innings to 4.50 with the Astros.
The 6’4” Astros pitcher is a tall pitcher who can bring the heat, reaching 98 mph at times. According to scouting reports by MLB Pipeline, “He mostly works around the zone, but his delivery will need more refinement before he truly commands all of his pitches. If he can make the necessary adjustments, he’ll have all the makings of a frontline starter.”
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While Feliz should not be awarded the fifth spot in the rotation right now, he needs to earn it during spring training. Should the Astros go out and sign someone like Mike Leake, Yovani Gallardo, Doug Fister, or Scott Kazmir, then Feliz will go to Triple-A to become part of the depth in the rotation down there. Feliz could also be converted into the coveted flame-thrower in the bullpen to set up for Giles.
In his time with the Astros, according to Fangraphs, he averaged a 93.5 mph fastball, an 81.4 mph slider, and an 84 mph changeup. Feliz throws 46.6% of his pitches in the strike zone, and of those pitches, 76.1% of them swing at strikes in the zone. He gets 12.6% of the batters to swing and miss, which could lead to high strikeout totals in the bigs.
A.J. Hinch and the rest of the Astros staff will carefully examine all the possibilities before and during spring training. The telling tale will be how long they keep Feliz in the rotation. I think that while he could be dominant out of the bullpen, the depth at starting pitcher in the Astros farm system has thinned out a little with recent trades. The Astros still have Joseph Musgrove, Francis Martes, and Riley Ferrel.
It might be a long-shot, but I think Feliz with start with the team as the 13th pitcher, but that depends on the health of Scott Feldman. There are a lot of factors to be considered between now and the start of spring training. Either way, Feliz should be a big part of the future. What do you think?