What about Phil Hughes as a comp? He didn’t spend as much time in the bullpen, but he seems to be a guy with a power fastball who made a similar move, even though he obviously never closed.
Comment by Christian — February 8, 2011 @ 11:06 am
It’s hard to say how successful he would be, your article being the evidence – comps are all over the map, but if he could develop a quick and dirty cutter, and his CH and CU were passable… it’s hard to imagine him not being worth more in the rotation.
Basically, if you have a tremendous young arm with experience starting in the minors, and great MLB peripherals after one year in the pen, how can you really not give him a shot at starting in the bigs? A player’s WAR ceiling is just so limited in the bullpen. The worst thing that happens is he goes back to closing… right?
At one point, Feliz was the top prospect in the Rangers system, ahead of Derek Holland and Justin Smoak. Even supposing that Smoak is a switch hitting Lyle Overbay, that’s a player who’s worth more than the best relief pitchers in the game. To get the sort of grade he got, Feliz should have had starter stuff. What happened?
Comment by philosofool — February 8, 2011 @ 11:22 am
I thought of 1975 save leader, 23 YO Goose Gossage, who became a middling starter the following year and then went back to the pen the rest of his career.
How about this for a comp, don’t know his pitch mix:
minor league starter
cup of coffee at age 20
used as reliever in bigs
All-star at age 23 exclusively in relief
pitched some starts following year but mostly relief-13-9 W/L 10 saves
back to bullpen at age 25 with a fearsome (for 1987) 10.7 K/9 and 5.9 H/9
Reconverted to starter two years later and has a career year, ERA leader at 2.27 with 14-5 W/L, 6.9 H/9 2.1 BB/9 and top WHIP of 1.009. No longer fearsome with a 5.5 K/9 might explain his “only” being #6 in Cy Young voting.
Gone from the bigs, presumably due to injury, only 2 years later.
Raise your hand (and give yourself one) if you remember Scott Garrelts.
Do you think that most General Managers realize that even average starters are worth more than most “elite” closers? Perez had 1.7 WAR for the fangraphs version…
Comment by quick comment — February 8, 2011 @ 11:32 am
Nothing’s happened to Feliz. He’s still got that same upside as a starter. Ron Washington and Co. seem to be worried more about the “closer” instead of maximizing wins. It’s a shame to not give him a shot, but that looks like what’s going to happen.
Dollars to donuts the Rangers keep guys like Tommy Hunter and Brandon Webb in the rotation, when Feliz would be the better option, both in 2011 and in the future.
Expediency. The Rangers needed pitching of any kind, Feliz was ready as a releiver but would need more time as a starter. If the Rangers had Cliff Lee to start last season I don’t think we’re having this conversation.
But even when Feliz was in the Braves’ system BA included the caveat that some saw him as a releiver in the long haul.
I think deadpool’s comment, above, is closest to the best explanation. I think Feliz’s age when he came up to the majors was an important factor. (As I recall he was only 19 when he first pitched in the majors.) At his age, he would have been subject to significant pitch count limitations as a starter. The Rangers probably felt that Feliz’s skill level for non-fastballs worked in the bullpen but would require more seasoning in AAA to become a top starter. For expediency and “need” reasons, they made Feliz a closer. Now that they didn’t give Feliz the previous path to starting, which would have included more time in AAA, they probably wonder if his pitch repertoire will work as a starter.
There seems to be something about closing for a full year. It ‘proves’ Feliz can handle the role well. Just means he might be ‘sticky’ in the role – the team may want to keep things the same, you know, not upset the apple cart.
This seems about right. Had Feliz spent his last year-plus working on his secondary pitches and stamina, he might be ready to go now as a starter. Now, he couldn’t pitch more than 100 or so innings if they don’t want to jump him up too fast, and he hasn’t thrown his changeup enough to depend on it.
But there must have been some skepticism about his ability to start. I just don’t see a Daniels’ FO not understanding that Feliz would be worth more as a starter.
When Feliz first got called up, he was using his curve and change up more often. But, he had some difficulty with control of the two – weren’t extremely seasoned. Washington encouraged him to use his fastball more, because it was getting people out and he was experiencing extreme success with it. His curve flashes brilliance, and Law as far back as 2 years ago held praise for his change up. It seems as if he has the stuff to start, but his fastball’s success has stood in the way of his secondaries.
Daniels recently said he is well aware that a pitcher’s value is found in starting. There is a reason middling starters make as much as great closers.
I wish I had my BA handbook from Feliz’ last year in the ATL in front of me, it does seem like there was some reason that even BA was concerned about him being a starter. If I remember correctly they rated him about 5th in the system and said the caveat was that if he was a starter he was 1 and if he was a releiver he was 7. I can’t remember why they were worried though, if it was something mechanical or makeup.
This won’t help judge how well Feliz can transition to a starter, but a current situation comp would be Andrew Cashner of the Cubs. Throws a 97-MPH fastball, close to 70% of the time last year, and the Cubs are planning to move him to the rotation after starting in the minors. Cashner has been said to have developed a change to go with his fastball/slider combo, so that would separate him from Feliz. Similar situations for the two teams, minus the closer position.
How much better is his stuff than a recent fastball-only prospect, Mike Pelfrey? I realize Pelfrey doesn’t have the history working out of the ‘pen that the article focuses on, but stuff-wise, wasn’t he strictly plus-plus fastball and no secondary pitches as a prospect, which would seem to make him a fairly decent comp? Have there been any other fastball-only types with stuff a little closer to Feliz’ level who have succeeded as starters recently?
Yes, but the statement that “both Morrow and Wainwright did not close” appears before your third definition.
Anyway, I’m with you now.
Comment by Detroit Michael — February 8, 2011 @ 1:28 pm
This is a case where I’m not sure we can learn much from comps because teams in general tend to be reluctant to move a relief pitcher out of that role after he’s had success.
Even though he’s not a similar pitcher, C.J. Wilson could very well be the most relevant comp here, the reason being that he shows an organizational willingness to take a successful relief pitcher and try to transition him to the rotation. It might be worth looking at pitchers who came up as starters with plus fastballs but inconsistent secondary stuff as comps, rather that limiting it to converted relievers.
What about Johan Santana? He spent considerable time in the pen his first 4 years, not sticking exclusively into a starting role until he was 24. Although Santana has a broader pitch selection, with his circle change and slider, I could see a similar situation develop with Feliz. The Twins certainly took a conservative approach to easing Santana into the starting role, and were able to do so as they had a rotation that was winning division titles. The Rangers seem to be in a very similar position. I agree that the “closer” title does add a little stickiness to the situation, especially with Franky Francisco gone, but the Rangers have a very deep bullpen and its much easier to fill in a hole at closer than in the rotation.