Fantasy Baseball Insider Trading: Neftali Feliz
by Rich Arleo
on August 4, 2011 @ 14:36:36
Some batters and pitchers on the other teams in your fantasy baseball league are becoming real drags. A few MLB players on your fantasy baseball team are performing better than you expected. Is it time to move in? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Insider Trading series is your accomplice when it's time to do shady business in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball game.
After the young closer won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2010, the Texas Rangers were preparing him for the rotation this March before reversing course and keeping him as their closer. While Feliz has managed to save 21 games thus far, he's struggled a bit with a 1.27 WHIP and 3.26 ERA to go along with five blown saves, two more than he had all last year.
The 23-year-old came back with a perfect inning on the 28th, but then on the 30th the Rangers traded for Koji Uehara ... and on the 31st, they acquired Mike Adams. They haven't had any save situations since then, but Uehara and Adams will pitch in late-game situations, and Feliz will have to watch his back if he continues to struggle.
Feliz's K/9 stands at 6.28 as of this writing – he finished with a 9.22 K/9 last year. Along with his drop in strikeouts has come rises in walks and home runs per nine frames. In 38 2/3 innings he's allowed four homers and walked 20. Last year in 69 1/3 innings he allowed five home runs and walked 18.
His first-pitch strike percentage is down to 50.3 compared to 55.6 and 57.3 in the last two seasons, so he's clearly struggling with his control, falling behind batters and getting hit. His BAA is up .036 from last year while his BABIP and LOB percentage are very similar, so bad luck doesn't seem to be involved here.
There were earlier reports that his velocity was down, but the slight drop to 95.9 mph this year from his 2010 level (96.3) on his fastball isn't a big enough cause for concern. The bigger worry: As Feliz falls behind hitters, he has to turn to his best pitch, which is his fastball. Unfortunately, hitters are expecting it and have been able to tee off on it this season.
His wFB (fastball runs above average) is down from 19.3 last year to 2.4 so far this year, per Fangraphs. This stat essentially shows how effectively each pitch limits the opposition. Along with the aforementioned predictability, this drop stems from issues he has had this year: shaky command of his secondary stuff, a lack of aggressiveness around the black and opponents becoming more familiar with his stuff.
He still has the reputation advantage over anyone else in the bullpen despite being so young. He has 61 career saves to the total of 15 from Uehara and Adams, but the Rangers need to win now, and it doesn't seem like Washington would shy away from toying with those guys if he continues to struggle. Each of these new Rangers relievers has proven more adept at pounding the strike zone than Feliz this season, something Washington might start to value more as the playoff race comes down to the wire.
It will be interesting to see how Washington's words and the influx of legit saves competition affect the young righty as he continues to go go through his rough sophomore season. Right now, he still has the closer's job, so if you're comfortable with your saves, trading him now before anything changes could be a sound decision. Even if he keeps the titular role, he could be subbed here and there if he continues to struggle.
About Rich Arleo
Rich Arleo is a Marist College alum who has been playing fantasy sports since he was 14 years old. He is a local editor with AOL's Patch.com and became a staff writer with Bruno Boys Fantasy Football in 2010 and a contributor to KFFL in 2011.
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