Here at Rum Bunter we will be breaking down each piece received by the Pirates in the Gerrit Cole trade, first up is reliever Michael Feliz
24-year-old Michael Feliz is a right-handed relief pitcher from Azua, Dominican Republic. In May of 2010 he signed with the Astros as an international free agent, worked his way through the Houston farm system, and made his Major League debut in 2015.
Michael Feliz throws a fastball that sits in the 95-97 miles per hour range and it can surpass 100 miles per hour. Feliz also throws a slider that can be a wipeout pitch, and he flashes a plus changeup at times as well.
The slider that Feliz throws can be a real weapon. In 2017 he allowed just 15 hits off of his slider. He was also able to generate a swinging strike on 23.6 percent of the sliders he threw during the 2017 campaign.
In 98 career Major League games, Michael Feliz has pitched 121 innings. He has racked up the strikeouts averaging 12.79 K/9 in his career, but he has had some control issues averaging 3.57 BB/9 and having uncorked 13 wild pitches. Luckily for Feliz, he will now get to work with the best pitching coach in baseball in Ray Searage who is the master in helping pitcher refine their control.
Michael Feliz has also struggled with the long ball. He has allowed 20 home runs in his career (1.49 HR/9). However, eight of these home runs came at the hitter’s friendly Minute Maid Park in Houston. So, moving to PNC Park should help Feliz with his home run issues. As you can see via Baseball Savant here, Feliz’s spray chart from 2017 suggests that a move to PNC Park will benefit him greatly.
During his time in Houston Michael Feliz was also victimized by batting average on balls in play (BABIP). League average BABIP is .300. When a pitcher has a BABIP above .300 it indicates they have been victimized by poor luck and/or poor defense, and that has been the case for Feliz the past two seasons.
In 2016 Feliz’s BABIP was .315, which is not too terrible. The results indicated this as he posted a 3.24 FIP in 2016. During 2016 not only did his FIP indiacte he pitched much better than his 4.43 ERA would lead one to believe, his 2.67 xFIP indicated that if Feliz repeated his results better things would be on the horizon.
Then in 2017, his BABIP skyrocketed to .381 and Feliz’s FIP jumped to 3.78 while his ERA ballooned to 5.63. Once again his FIP indicated he was better than his ERA, while his 3.58 xFIP was indicative of better things on the horizon.
For his Major League career Michael Feliz owns a .340 BABIP, this is a big reason why despite having a lifetime 3.67 FIP and a 3.17 xFIP, his career ERA is 5.13. As a reminder, ERA is a horrible stat to use when evaluating the effectiveness of relief pitchers and Feliz is a fine example of this.
Feliz will bring five years of team control to Pittsburgh. The Pirates will control Feliz’s rights via arbitration through the 2022 season. So, Michael Feliz should be a big part of the Pirate bullpen for a long time.
In 2018 and beyond Michael Feliz projects as a potential dominant arm at the backend of the Pirate bullpen. A trio of Feliz, Felipe Rivero, and George Kontos should give the Pirates one of the better backend trios in the National League. Factor in pitchers such as A.J. Schugel and Dovydas Neverauskas and the Pirate bullpen could be quite good in 2018.