Future shock: Feliz causing happy thoughts in Arlington

I have seen the future of pitching, and it is Neftali Feliz.

You can keep your Strasburg, if you can sign him. Give me Rangers rookie right-hander Feliz, whose Major League debut was more like a coronation. I’ve seen some dominant pitcheNeftali Feliz at -- appropriately -- the Futures Gamers make an instant impact the past few years – Cole Hamels, Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer come to mind – but I don’t think I’ve seen anything like Feliz’s stuff. The guy is a force of nature.

Basic baseball physics is like this: The bigger difference between your fastball and off-speed stuff, the harder you are to hit. Johan Santana remains great despite the fact that he no longer throws in the mid-upper 90s. He can work down around 89-91 mph, as long as his motion is the same and that magnificent changeup comes in around 80-84. 

Now what if I told you that Neftali brings his fastball right around 100 every time? While watching his debut on Monday night, when he came on in relief against the A’s, I was impressed when he hit 99 on the gun no fewer than eight times. Fangraphs has the whole thing mapped out – check it out, impressive stuff.

I was even more awed when Neftali hit 101 on his final pitch. But listen, you can’t just throw fast in this game. Bobby Parnell threw 100 this year but has no out pitch. Joel Zumaya, I believe, got up close to 104, but he couldn’t really pitch, and he couldn’t stay healthy. He was a gimmick. Neftali is the real deal.

Know how I know? He throws his off-speed pitches at 90 and a hard-breaking curve at 83. The kid throws his main off-speed pitch about 10 mph slower than his fastball, and he throws it faster than Johan’s fastball. He’s going to lose velocity as he gets older and becomes a starter, but his stuff is obscene.

Don’t believe me? Witness it yourself.

Sidebar: Think the Braves would want this kid back to team with Tommy Hanson in their rotation? He went in the ill-fated Teixeira rental. Let that be a cautionary tale to the White Sox and anyone else – Deadline deals can be fatally short-sighted.

Besides his fantastic talent, he’s got legit poise. Some guys, when they debut, they look like they have the weight of the world on them. This kid, he was smiling, having a good time and knew the A’s couldn’t touch him.

Neftali struck out the side in his first inning, tossed another perfect inning and then came out. His performance was about as impressive as I’ve seen in a long time, and he served notice to the rest of the league. The Rangers are bringing him along slowly, but Neftali is destined to be a starter at some point real soon – certainly no later than next spring. But if they don’t do that this year, what they have on their hands is a Joba Chamberlain-like figure – circa 2007.

He gave up a home run to Adam Kennedy in his second outing on Wednesday – in between striking out two more batters. It doesn’t change my position on him.

jobamoney Let it be known – the only Yankees team of the past five years that I thought had a chance to win it all was that 2007 team, and Chamberlain was the reason. I thought his talent and intimidation in the seventh and eighth provided an X-Factor that they hadn’t had since Rivera was setting up Wetteland in 1996. Joba was unhittable that year, and more importantly, he knew it. I still believe if it weren’t for those bugs, the Yankees would have had an excellent chance to win the World Series that season. 

So let’s cut to the chase. What does this mean? It means the Rangers are no joke, with Neftali locking down the late innings. It means they’re a contender now, but in a few years, with Feliz, Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter, if they’re still hitting like they do now, they’ll be up there with the Red Sox, Yankees and Angels of the league.

On a personal level, it means barring injury, we’re looking at a certain future All-Star. It means that you want to take this guy a round or two too early in your fantasy draft next year – let them laugh, you’ll laugh all the way to the championship.

Will Neftali be as good as Lincecum? I don’t know. Maybe. And that’s from someone who owns two Lincecum jerseys.

The meaning of Neftali Feliz’s name is “Struggling happy.” The name is half-accurate; I saw no struggles on Monday night.

But if handled correctly, Neftali is going to make the Rangers happy for years to come.

Maybe even this year.


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