DVD is so last year. Get ready for the BMF’s.
You already know that the Rangers added two blue chip pitching prospects in this summer’s amateur draft in 18 year old Blake Beavan and 18 year old Michael Main (assuming the former signs in the next two weeks, as most seem to believe that he will).
What you might not know is that a third teenaged pitcher has joined the fold whose accomplishments and stuff make him arguably a better prospect than either Beavan or Main: Neftali Feliz.
A little context for where I’m coming from:
Eric Hurley took a swim throught the short season Northwest League the year that he was 18 years old on opening day (2004). The hitters, almost exclusively college guys, lit him up to the tune of a 5.40 ERA and a .295 batting average.
The year that John Danks began the season as an 18 year old, the older NWL hitters pounded out an 8.53 ERA against the first rounder while hitting him at a .267 clip.
2006 first rounder Kasey Kiker competed marvelously as an 18 year old in the NWL, holding the far more experienced hitters to a 4.13 ERA and a .232 average.
Neftali Feliz — the kid who many probably think of as an extra, inconsequential name thrown on to the back of the Mark Teixeira trade if they think of him at all — began the season as an 18 year old and he held NWL-level competition in the Appy League to a ridiculous 2.05 ERA and a .178 batting average.
Feliz is not some marginal afterthought in the Teixeira deal. He is, for his age and level of competition, arguably a better prospect and more accomplished than Hurley, Danks or Kiker and belongs in any discussion of the two blue chippers added to the system in the first round of the 2007 draft.
The Rangers have been stung badly this decade with "afterthoughts" like Feliz being added on to the back end of a deal. When Texas traded for a washed up Randy Velarde back in 2000, they threw in a young arm toiling in the Appy League named Aaron Harang. A couple of years later, the tacked a rookie league third baseman named Edwin Encarnacion on to the back end of a deal to get Rob Bell.
This time, it seems that Jon Daniels is going to find himself on the right end of one of those seemingly unexpected bonanzas.
The numbers and the scouting reports suggest that Feliz has the goods to rank as one of the most dominant young pitchers this system has ever seen. In 55.1 career innings over his first two pro seasons, his K/9 (strikeouts per 9 innings) ratio is a staggering 11.45 (among all MLB starters this year, only two are better than 10).
Last year, as a 17 year old pitching in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, the 6’3", 180 lb. Feliz — a Dominican Republic native finding himself on American soil for the first time — did not allow a run over his last 11 innings of work, and he fanned 15 during that span.
His manager Luis Ortiz told Baseball America that Feliz was the best prospect on his extremely talented young club: "He’s tall, smooth and he does it so effortless. When it comes out of his hand, it’s ‘Bam’–96, 97."
Think about that: 17, 18 years old and throwing 96, 97… "effortlessly."
According to Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA projections, the two most similar pitchers to Feliz are Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez and Joel Zumaya.
He’s awfully young, far away from the big leagues, can be a bit wild at times and he needs to refine his secondary pitches, but it’s abundantly clear that had Feliz been in the 2007 draft — like Beavan and Main, both of whom are roughly the same age — he wouldn’t have made it past the first ten or 15 picks. Arms like this one just don’t make it that far down the list very often.