Feliz conjures up memories of Joba, K-Rod

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Watching Neftali Feliz dominate his big league debut on Monday — working two perfect innings of four-strikeout ball — I couldn’t help but be reminded of Joba Chamberlain in
2007.

 

Like Feliz, Chamberlain also
rated among the game’s most highly touted starting prospects that year before being converted into a reliever for the stretch run.  The move paid big dividends, not just for the Yankees, but for fantasy owners, too. By the time Chamberlain allowed his first earned
run, on Sept. 16, after 16 dominant innings, his bandwagon had already grown crowded.
Never mind that he was a setup man who had little hope of starting or closing. Good
pitching is good pitching, and the then-21-year-old provided plenty of it
during the season’s final two months, ringing up 34 strikeouts in 24 innings of
one-run ball, good for an 0.38 ERA.

 

Feliz could be headed down the
same path. Like Chamberlain, the Dominican Republic-born righty arrives in
the Majors at 21 and is expected to serve in a relief role down the stretch after
earning rave reviews as one of the game’s top starting prospects.

Perhaps the biggest advantage Chamberlain
had over Feliz was that he attended college and busted into the bigs with more
polish and pitch command.

 

However, what Feliz possesses
that Joba didn’t is a fastball that reaches triple-digits on the radar gun. That’s
right, 100 mph. Add in a nasty curve and a plus changeup, and you’ve got one
dangerous power pitcher, the kind of flamethrower who fanned 10.6 batters per
nine innings during his four-year tenure in the Minors.

 

Also, while Chamberlain worked
mostly as a setup man two years ago, Feliz is expected to serve as a long
reliever in Texas, increasing the chances of him finishing the regular season
with more innings, strikeouts and maybe even more wins along the way.

 

As far as stuff goes, a more apt
comparison might be fellow countryman Francisco Rodriguez, whose late arrival
played a pivotal role in the Angels’ 2002 World Series run, and all at the age
of 20.

 

All signs point toward Feliz
rounding into an elite fantasy option, whether as a top-flight closer or a
front-line starter.

 

No wonder the Rangers refused to
bet the farm on Roy Halladay.

 

-Alex
Cushing, MLB.com

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