One of the most interesting MLB Spring Training stories this season has to do with player role changes from two to of the more successful and talented young pitchers in the game. Texas Rangers’ Neftail Feliz and Boston Red Sox Daniel Bard are both being stretched out as they will be converted from relievers to starters this spring. Both of these young men are expected to be integral parts of their respective rotations. Why? I have no idea, but they are. You’ve heard the old adage, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it?” Apparently that doesn’t apply to baseball.
Former Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan missed all of 2010 due to Tommy John surgery and returned last season with just 14 saves and an ERA of 4.84. The Rangers must have reason to believe the 37-year old has now completely recovered and still has something left in the tank though. Nolan Ryan, Jon Daniels and Ron Washington all have to feel that way because they are moving him into the closers spot and converting Neftali Feliz to a starter. The 23-year old Feliz was an All-Star and the AL Rookie of the Year in 2010 amassing 72 saves in his first two years full years as the Rangers full time closer. In 162 2/3 MLB innings as a reliever Feliz had an ERA of 2.55 with 164 strikeouts and an impressive WHIP of 0.947.
When Jonathan Paplebon signed with the Philadelphia Phillies this offseason, there were many who thought that setup man Daniel Bard would inherit the closers role or at least get a shot at it. You can see why some jumped to this conclusion as Bard posted a 2.88 ERA in his first three years in relief with the Boston Red Sox striking out 213 batters in 197 innings. With a career WHIP of 1.056, like Feliz, Bard has been stingy when has come to allowing base runners. Boston decided to go a different route however trading for former Oakland Athletics closer Andrew Bailey and Houston Astros closer Mark Melancon (who will setup for Bailey) and Bard is being shifted to the rotation.
Bard averaged about 74 innings out of the pen the last two seasons and Feliz about 66. You have to figure that these two young fireballers won’t pitch much more than 150 innings this season, at least not effectively. To date, at the MLB level their arms have been used and conditioned to respond in the reliever’s role and starting is whole new ballgame as far as the mind and body is concerned. Both of these guys will have to adjust both mentally and physically to how they go about things.
Both Feliz and Bard have enough pitches to get hitters out multiple times around the order and pitching at the end of games in pressure situations can only help their confidence and ability to perform. The sky is the limit for both of these young pitchers however if you are looking for starting pitching studs on your Fantasy Baseball roster for this year, don’t expect the same metrics that these two pitchers were able to put up as relievers, that’s just not going to happen.
Here’s an interesting way to play it. Under the assumption that you have one of these two guys on your roster and they get off to a hot start, consider trading them around the All-Star break. No matter how well either of these two do before the All-Star break, there just isn’t any way either of them will be able to sustain it for the full year. At least not this year. If you are really in love with these guys and you are in a keeper league, make certain that you have alternatives going down the stretch this season if you plan on being a contender.
The founder and former owner of MC3 Sports Media, Mike Cardano is the Sr. Business Administrator for RotoExperts and the Executive Director here at TheXLog.com. You may email Mike @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MikeCardano. Listen to Mike on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew Tuesday mornings at 10am ET.