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. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve seen some dominant pitchers make an instant impact the past few years Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Cole Hamels, Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer come to mind Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve seen anything like FelizÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 AÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, I was impressed when he hit 99 on the gun no fewer than eight times. Fangraphs has the whole thing mapped out Ã¢â‚¬â€œ check it out, impressive stuff.
I was even more awed when Neftali hit 101 on his final pitch. But listen, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really pitch, and he couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 JohanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fastball. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to lose velocity as he gets older and becomes a starter, but his stuff is obscene.
DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Deadline deals can be fatally short-sighted.
Besides his fantastic talent, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 AÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ certainly no later than next spring. But if they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do that this year, what they have on their hands is a Joba Chamberlain-like figure Ã¢â‚¬â€œ circa 2007.
He gave up a home run to Adam Kennedy in his second outing on Wednesday Ã¢â‚¬â€œ in between striking out two more batters. It doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t change my position on him.
Let it be known Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 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 hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t for those bugs, the Yankees would have had an excellent chance to win the World Series that season.
So letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a contender now, but in a few years, with Feliz, Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter, if theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re still hitting like they do now, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be up there with the Red Sox, Yankees and Angels of the league.
On a personal level, it means barring injury, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ let them laugh, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll laugh all the way to the championship.
Will Neftali be as good as Lincecum? I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know. Maybe. And thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s from someone who owns two Lincecum jerseys.
The meaning of Neftali FelizÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s name is Ã¢â‚¬Å“Struggling happy.Ã¢â‚¬Â 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.