MICHAEL FELIZ, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: June 28, 1993
Signed: International Free Agent, 2010 (Astros)
How Acquired: Trade (with Astros for Gerrit Cole)
Country: Dominican Republic
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Feliz originally signed with Oakland for $800,000, but MLB voided the contract when he tested positive for steroids. He then signed with Houston for $400,000. He showed good stuff as he advanced through the minors as a starter, with a fastball that sat about 93 mph, a promising breaking ball and a developing change. He’s pitched strictly as a reliever in the majors, with a fastball that sits at 95-96 mph and reaches 99, and he’s missed a lot of bats, a lot of them due to his slider. He doesn’t throw the chnge much. Feliz has had a limited platoon split in the majors and has been a flyball pitcher, with a high HR rate. His ERAs as a major leaguer have been poor, but his xFIPs suggest that he’s pitched better than that. The Pirates acquired him in the Gerrit Cole trade.
Having been suspended for 50 games, Feliz pitched briefly in his debut, making three starts.
The Astros moved Feliz to the Gulf Coast League, where he held his own, mainly as a starter.
Feliz split his time between rookie and advanced rookie ball. He pitched well at the former level but had control issues at the latter.
Feliz made a strong showing in the New York-Penn League, mostly as a starter. He led the league in ERA and was ranked ninth in the Astros’ system by Baseball America after the season.
Feliz had an inconsistent season in low A, but showed enough ability that BA rated him the Astros’ fifth best prospect after the season. Houston added him to the 40-man roster in November.
Feliz started the season in high A and pitched better than his ERA indicates, especially considering that it was the California League. The Astros moved him up to AA in late May, called him up just for one game a few days later, and he then spent the rest of the year in AA until a September callup. He pitched very well in AA, but struggled in brief time out of the major league bullpen.
Feliz made the Astros’ opening day roster, went back to AAA after one game, then returned to the majors for the rest of the year after two games in AAA. He pitched much better than his ERA indicates, as shown by a 2.67 xFIP as well as the extremely high K rate. He was hurt by a very high 17.9% HR/FB rate, leading to ten HRs.
Feliz spent the season in the majors, except for a brief rehab after he missed a month late in the season with a shoulder injury. He again pitched much better than his ERA, with a 3.58 xFIP and nearly the same K rate as the year before. He had more control trouble than the previous year and again had a high HR/FB rate of 15.1%, resulting in a HR every six innings. Feliz’ groundball rate dropped from 42.1% in 2016 to 31.0%. The shoulder trouble may have been behind some of his struggles, as he had a 1.357 opponents’ OPS in the month before he went out and 1.188 after he returned. His worse month otherwise was .728.
Feliz started the season as the Pirates’ eighth-inning reliever, but he quickly pitched himself out of the role. In fact, he ended up having almost exactly the same season as in 2017. He continued to have gopher ball (6) and control issues. As in 2017, the advanced stats were kinder to him than the traditional ones: his xFIP was 4.33, which still isn’t good. Feliz was hurt by a batting average on balls in play of .331 and a low strand rate of 63.1 %. He spent two weeks on the disabled list starting in late June due to shoulder inflammation. In late July, the Pirates optioned Feliz to Indianapolis. He returned for 12 days in August, was optioned again, and returned in early September. He struggled in his time in AAA as well.
Feliz had continuing gopher ball problems in the spring and opened the season with Indianapolis. The Pirates called him up at the end of April, though, and he spent the rest of the season with them except for a few days starting in late May. His problems with walks and homers continued; he gave up one of the latter every five innings. He continued to be hard to hit, as shown by the K rate and his opponents’ average of .212. He had only a slight platoon split. He was better in the second half of the season: in his first 24 games he had a 5.11 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, and in his last 34 a 3.13 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. For once, Feliz’ xFIP (4.29) was higher than his ERA, as he benefited from a slightly low batting average on balls in play of .262 and a high strand rate of 79.9%.
Feliz’ season didn’t last long. After three outings, two of them very bad, he went out with an elbow strain and didn’t return.
Feliz is out of options, so if he’s healthy, he’ll have to be on the major league roster to open the 2021 season. The problems with walks and gopher balls don’t seem to be going anywhere and he’ll be eligible for arbitration for the second time, so there was an argument to be made for non-tendering him. The Pirates, however, agreed to terms with him for 2021.
UPDATE: The Pirates designated Feliz for assignment in May when they claimed Ben Gamel off waivers. Ironically, he’d been pitching well up to that point.
|Signing Bonus: $400,000
MiLB Debut: 2010
MLB Debut: 5/3/2015
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2022
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/14 (since removed)
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2015, 2018, 2019)
MLB Service Time: 4.168
|February 11, 2010: Signed as an international free agent by the Oakland Athletics.
March 11, 2010: Contract voided by MLB.
May 19, 2010: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Houston Astros.
November 20, 2014: Contract purchased by the Houston Astros.
January 13, 2018: Traded by the Houston Astros with Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove and Jason Martin to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Gerrit Cole.
May 9, 2021: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.