KFFL answers important fantasy baseball questions for each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Texas Rangers?
Who are Yu Darvish?
Happy switch for Feliz?
That's exactly what Tim Heaney asked as the 2011 postseason wound down. He discussed the positives (the vast repertoire, for instance), the negatives (like the flat fastball) and the unknowns (such as how his results could compare with other Asian hurlers who've taken the leap).
It's difficult to argue with Nolan Ryan: This unorthodox right-hander of Iranian and Japanese descent is something special. Darvish is officially a member of the back-to-back defending champs of the American League. They expect a lot from him. His nation expects a lot of him.
Projecting Darvish has proven difficult, because no matter how hard one tries to be on his depressed statistics from his time spent in Nippon Professional Baseball, he comes out like a fat rat. At some point, good pitching is good pitching, and Darvish is undoubtedly a good pitcher. His conditioning and some adjustments he made should aid his ability to handle taking the ball on every fifth day.
It's been difficult to determine a definitive translation of Japanese league numbers to Major League Baseball, for sure. As Baseball America's Tim Ednoff pointed out a month ago, a grossly overlooked aspect of this process is that the organization standardized its baseball for the 2011 season. The change appeared to have a dramatic effect on the statistical landscape.
Still, judging from the 25-year-old's numbers, he didn't seem to benefit quite as much as other hurlers might have. He posted a 1.44 ERA in 2011, but in his previous four campaigns, his ERA was never greater than 1.88. The only are in which he experienced a dramatic improvement was in his control rate.
How will the hype machine affect his price tag? How will he compare to other fantasy aces? How the hell can you tell? You can't, entirely, and you have to accept that.
But, Darvish is young, he's working with an outstanding organization, and he has the best foundation of any Japanese pitching prospect ever to arrive in the States. It seems reasonable to believe that he'll perform like a No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 mixed-league starter, and he stands a solid chance of reaching the high end of that range. He'll certainly be a fun gamble to take.
How will Neftali Feliz fare in the rotation, this year?
Let's go over a few things. 1) Feliz is talented. 2) He spent more than two full seasons as a starting pitcher in the minors, mostly with impressive outcomes. 3) In spring training last year, Feliz had mixed results while the Rangers were stretching him out, but he flashed the kind of ability that made his club certain he could succeed in the role.
How about a few more? 4) Texas helped C.J. Wilson, an oft-injured reliever who hadn't started a game since 2005, make a successful transition in 2010 (when he pitched 204 frames). 5) The organization achieved a similar feat again in 2011 with Alexi Ogando, who hadn't made a start since early in 2010 and is probably a fairer comp to Felix. 6) Mike Maddux is awesome.
Feliz will be only 24 this year, and the team won't burn him out. Still, the going rate for a pitcher of his caliber, even in his first season as a starter, may not be all that high. Thank a rough pre-break run as a reliever in 2011 and the uncertainty surrounding his new role for that. He was quite good in the second half, once he began to rely on his full complement of pitches. Think that approach will come in handy every fifth day?
There's certainly some risk involved. That risk can't be any greater than that associated with other midrange mixed-league starters. Feliz's ceiling is definitely higher than the ceilings of many of those types, however. If your competition is going to tempt you to land a talent like that at a good price, how will you turn it down?
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.