Blue Jays Potential Pickup; Neftali Feliz
On Friday July 3rd the Texas Rangers DFA’d their once budding super star Neftali Feliz to make room on their 40 man roster for Matt Harrison.
After being DFA’d the cost to pick him up would be pretty cheap. The deadline for the waiver claim would be July 13th. It is safe to assume other teams will submit an offer. But, is it even worth it for Alex Anthopoulos to even tender the claim?
There is no denying that the former 2010 AL Rookie of the Year has been having a down season. He spent some time on the DL with an axillary abscesses by his right armpit. Kind of a bad luck thing but the good news for Neftali is that it was not shoulder or elbow related. While not really having a history for repeated DL trips, Neftali has spent some time on it with the dreaded Tommy John surgery in 2012. After which he missed almost all of 2013 while recovering from it.
The numbers for Neftali this year are not very pretty. All of the trends that you like to see are moving in the wrong direction. The huge factor for me is the velocity on his fastball. Again this year he is averaging 93.7 MPH on the pitch. He has jacked it up to 97 but the days of hitting 103 MPH and an average of 96+ MPH seem to be behind him. Since the Tommy John surgery he has been a healthy 3 MPH down on his fastball. But, last season he had some promise with his velocity to finish out the season. Last September he was able to hit an average of 95.8 MPH. All the while increasing his usage of the pitch up to almost 78%. Below is his velocity chart on his fastball for the last 3 seasons.
While his numbers in 2014 were okay on the surface level. He had 31.2 IP on 30 appearances. 1.99 ERA, and 0.979 WHIP. He even racked up 13 saves after the Rangers traded away their closer Joakim Soria. There were some underlying signs that seemed troubling. Maybe it was confidence issues with his diminished fast ball but he was throwing his change up (21.4%) and his slider (16.4%) far too often. The home run started to become a problem with a mark of 1.42 HR/9. Previously Neftali sat around 0.65 (2010), 0.58 (2011), 1.05 (2012), and 0 (2013). His LD% has also gone up from around 15% (pre 2012) to 28.6%, 21.6%, and 24.2% over the last 3 years. Batters seem to be making better contact with his pitches. Maybe due to the loss of his curve ball?
Despite being a flyball pitcher (50%+ in 2013/2014 and career 48%) Neftali hasn’t really been the type of pitcher to give up home runs until last year. The good news is this year his FB% is down to 40.9% and brought his HR/9 down to 0.92, Having a fly ball pitcher in the Rogers Center could be a recipe for disaster. On the same token his ground ball rate is a nice 34.8% giving him a career high 0.85 GB/FB ratio.
Who knows if a change of scenery will be what is needed for him. This season on paper has been his worst of his career and the Rangers were quick to pull the trigger on dumping him. Even with his post Tommy John number I would easily give him a shot. He can still pick up strike outs (7.32 K/9) and has a positive WAR 0.2 (fangraphs) despite the struggles he has had. Even if he slots into a Liam Hendriks style role instead of a closer, he can still have value to the bullpen. The contract is pretty friendly too. He is owed just over 2 million remaining on his deal for this year and is a free agent at the end of the season.
I would give Pete Walker a chance to see what he can do with Neftali. I would have put the waiver claim in almost instantly. Maybe AA doesn’t want to risk it. I would say the higher probability is that a team like the Red Sox (higher priority on the waive wire) would be more than happy to take him on.
I’m not privy to what happens in the front office but I would assume the Rangers would have been shopping him for next to nothing before literally giving him away. Maybe AA knew the DFA was coming and a pick up could be had to much cheaper. Who knows? I know I would love to see him a Blue Jay, would you give him a shot?