Houston Astros pitcher Michael Feliz won what may be a temporary roster spot.
Michael Feliz, Houston Astros rookie pitcher, is in danger of losing his place on the active roster. He made the Astros Opening Day team in a bit of a surprise, however, his time in Houston may be short-lived, at least for now. When Lance McCullers returns from the Disabled List on April 9, the Astros may need to cut one pitcher, and Feliz is the most likely to be sent to the minor leagues.
Feliz, 22, was signed in 2010 as a 16-year-old free agent by the Oakland A’s. One month later, according to two SB Nation stories, Feliz tested positive for a banned substance, and Oakland canceled the contract. In May 2010, the Astros took a chance on him, signing him to a contract at a much lower rate than Oakland’s original offer.
A rough but promising pitcher, Feliz spent 2010 through 2012 playing for several Astros Rookie League teams before moving up to the short-season Class-A Tri-City Valley Cats in 2013. That season, he went 4-2, with a 1.96 ERA, 13 walks, and 78 strikeouts in 69 innings. The effort earned him a promotion, and in 2014 Feliz pitched for the full season Class-A, Midwest League Quad Cities River Bandits. He won eight, lost six, and his ERA jumped to 4.03, but his 37/111 walks to strikeouts ratio was impressive, and the next season he was on the move again.
Feliz began the 2015 season at High-A Lancaster (California League), a decidedly hitter-friendly league. After 32.2 innings with the JetHawks, and another impressive walk to strikeouts performance (12/33), Feliz was promoted on May 21 to Double-A Corpus Christi. Eight days later, the young hurler got THE call, jumping over Triple-A directly to the Astros. He stayed with Houston for just two days before being optioned back to Corpus, but the Astros would call on him on two further occasions during the 2015 season.
Feliz’ minor league numbers for 2015 continue to show his improving skills, explaining why he vaulted over the Triple-A pitchers at Fresno to make his big league debut on May 31. For Lancaster and Corpus Christi, Feliz went 7-4, 2.83 ERA, 32 walks, and 103 strikeouts in 111.1 innings. He only threw eight innings in five games for Houston last summer, gave up nine hits, seven earned runs, walked four, and struck out seven.
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Rated as the Astros #4 top pitching prospect (#10 overall Astros prospect), with a mid-90 mph fastball (occasionally up to 98), a slider, and changeup, Feliz has the stuff to compete at the big league level. He won the final roster position over #22 prospect James Hoyt, and veteran Wandy Rodriguez, just before the Astros headed to New York for their first game.
Said Astros manager A.J. Hinch of Feliz and the roster spot battle: “I don’t think there was a bad decision to make. I would have been completely comfortable with Hoyt, or actually, a couple of guys left back in Kissimmee.” (SB Nation/Crawfish Boxes, story by Josh Reese.)
When McCullers returns, unless the Astros decide to carry 13 pitchers, Feliz will likely be sent down, either to Fresno or back to Corpus Christi. Either way, expect to see him back in an Astros uniform again before too long.
**Stats from Baseball-Reference**