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Diamondbacks Free-agent Discussion, #6: Neftali Feliz

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Wait, what?

MLB: Spring Training-Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

Let’s be honest, this will be one of the shorter discussion articles in this series. It might struggle to reach 150 words, unless I embark on a review of the movie we watched last night (House on Haunted Hill, the original one, starring Vincent Price). Indeed, you would be forgiven for having missed the memo about Neftali Feliz even being a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks this year. But the picture on top of this article proves that this is not a figment of my deranged imagination.

Hr was part of a slew of free-agent signings to minor-league contracts towards the end of January, as the D-backs sought to provide some pitching depth in the minors. It also brought us the likes of Michael Blazek, Kris Medlen, Jake Buchanan and Antonio Bastardo, though none of these got more than a cup of coffee in the majors for Arizona. Felix didn’t even get that, spending the entire season in Triple-A with the Reno Aces. He started off in their bullpen, but moved to the rotation at the beginning of July, and did rather better as a starter. His ERA as a reliever was 6.82, but over 12 starts for the Aces, he went 5-2 with a 3.75 ERA. He kept the ball in the park, allowing five home-runs over 60 innings in that role.

However, his K:BB ratio as a starter was an anemic 43:28, and that suggests he was kinda lucky to have such a low ERA. His defense-independent ERA (FIP) across all his appearances for Reno was 5.35, more than half a run above his actual ERA of 4.81. Even though Feliz is only thirty years old, it seems a very long shot he’ll recover the form which made him an All-Star and won him Rookie of the Year honors as a Texas Ranger in 2010, when he had a 40-save season. He reached the World Series both that year and the next with Texas, and was within one strike of a World Series ring in 2011, before giving up a two-strike, two-out, two-run game-tying triple to David Freese in the ninth inning of Game 6.

The Rangers signing of Joe Nathan led to an ill-fated attempt by Feliz to start in 2012. This led to Tommy John surgery in August. His return has demonstrated the volatility of relievers: since the end of 2011, he has recorded a total of only 33 major-league saves, pitching for five different teams. Feliz’s last appearance in the majors came in mid-August 2017, as a member of the Kansas City Royals. If he continues in his role as a starter, there’s possibly a further spot for him as additional pitching depth for Arizona in 2019. However, the fact he was unable to break through this season, suggests the team saw him almost as a starter of last resort, and there’ll be no shortage of similar arms available this winter as alternatives.