Pittsburgh Pirates: Michael Feliz Seizing Opportunity This Spring

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 01: Michael Feliz #49 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on August 01, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 01: Michael Feliz #49 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on August 01, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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So far this spring right-handed reliever Michael Feliz has seized the opportunity at hand to earn a spot in the Opening Day bullpen of the Pittsburgh Pirates

Entering Spring Training right-handed reliever Michael Feliz was going to have to pitch his way onto the Opening Day roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Feliz is out of options and has to make the roster to avoid being exposed to waivers.

While being out of options can often times work into a player’s favor, Feliz did enter the spring behind a bit of an eight ball. This was due to Feliz pitching just 1.2 innings in three games last season.

Feliz’s 2020 season was cut short due to forearm tightness. Due to this injury and Feliz’s career struggles, there was some thought that the Pittsburgh Pirates may designate him for assignment this past offseason.

However, Feliz survived the offseason and entered the spring with a chance. When spring began the Pirates were going to be facing a decision to make with Feliz due to his lack of options. So far, Feliz has done all he can to make that decision a difficult one for the Pirates.

Feliz has pitched 3.1 innings in four games in Grapefruit League play. In these 3.1 innings the 27-year-old righty has allowed 1 earned run, on a solo home run, on two hits. He has not walked a batter and has struck out four.

The lack of walks from Feliz is an encouraging sign. Control has been a major issue for Feliz during his MLB career. Feliz has walked 10.1% of the batters he has faced in his 226.2 MLB innings. If Feliz can refine his control, he could be a quality reliever for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Lack of talent and stuff is not what has led to Feliz struggling in his MLB career. Feliz owns a 5.16 ERA and a 4.10 FIP in his career, however, he has the stuff needed to be a solid reliever, potentially even a high leverage reliever.

During the 2019 season Feliz’s strikeout rate (30.5%) ranked in the 87th percentile of baseball. This is along the lines of his career strikeout rate of 30.4%. Additionally, his whiff rate in 2019 was in the 72nd percentile of baseball.

Driving the high whiff and strikeout rates for Feliz is his fastball. The pitched ranked in the 79th percentile of baseball in velocity in 2019 and in the 63rd percentile of spin rate. By better locating the pitch Feliz can find a lot of success.

Feliz also has a slider with plus potential. The pitch limited opposing batters to a .183 batting average in 2019 and .234 in 2018, to go with a 48.2% whiff rate in 2019 and a whiff rate of 37.9% in 2018.

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So far this spring Feliz has done what he needed to do to crack the Opening Day roster with the Pittsburgh Pirates. If he can continue to locate his fastball and pitch with improved command, he could emerge as a quality reliever, potentially even in high leverage situations, this season.

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