Michael Feliz spent most of 2016 as a reliever for the Astros, and pitched quite well over 65 innings. While his ERA was 4.43, he had a 1.18 WHIP and an outstanding 95:22 K:BB. Feliz has an electric mid-90s fastball and a nasty slider, so he only threw his changeup five percent of the time in 2016. The Astros have oscillated on whether or not they want to develop Feliz as a starter, and his changeup will need further development for him to be an effective major league starter. Reports are that Feliz will be working toward a starting role in the offseason, and may compete for a fifth starter role in spring training. Fellow reliever Chris Devenski threw more extended relief outings last year, and seems to initially be ahead of Feliz, although the team also brought in veteran right-hander Charlie Morton, who could earn the spot as well. Feliz's value will depend on his eventual role, but he's one of the more intriguing Astros arms to watch given his high-strikeout potential.
Feliz (1-0) pitched a perfect sixth inning and was credited with the win in Houston's 6-3 victory over Tampa Bay on Friday. Feliz was the first of four relievers that collectively faced one batter over the minimum and gave the potent Astros offense the time it needed take a lead. The right-hander is biding his time in the bullpen until a spot in the rotation opens up, though the jury is still out as to whether his future is that of a reliever or a mid-rotation starter. He's got the body to handle the rigors of starting and his mid-90s heater will play in the rotation. For now, he's going to pitch in low-leverage spots, but for a team whose offense can explode any time and turn deficits into leads, there will be opportunities to pick up relief wins nonetheless. Five of Houston's 12 wins this season have been credited to the bullpen.
Feliz has given up two runs over 5.1 innings of work in 2017. As the long-man in the Astros' bullpen, Feliz did not allow a run over his first two outings (2.2 innings). His last two appearances, however, has seen him allow two runs over 2.2 innings. Last season, the 25-year-old went 8-1 with a 4.43 ERA in 65 innings.
Feliz has a "leg up" on other relievers in competition for one of the final spots in the Astros' bullpen. Feliz, a starter in the minor leagues, made the major-league roster out of training camp last year as part of the bullpen. He delivered some strong work early in the season, but faltered over the second half. Houston manager A.J. Hinch cited the right-hander's ability to miss bats -- Feliz posted a 13.2 K/9 rate -- and will utilize the former starter in a long-relief role.
Feliz is expected to prepare for a starting role this winter, the Houston Chronicle reports. The organization is in the process of determining whether Feliz is a better fit as a starter or reliever long term -- same with Chris Devenski. Both players will stretch out this winter but one or both could transition back to a relief role in spring training. Feliz finished the 2016 season on a high note but had his ups and downs throughout the campaign and only threw 65 innings for Houston, 43.1 fewer frames than Devenski. Feliz has never reached 120 innings in a season.
Feliz threw a shutout eighth inning with two strikeouts in a 7-1 loss against the Pirates on Tuesday. Feliz hasn't allowed a run in 10 out of his last 12 appearances, although he gave up six combined runs in the other two outings. His 13.3 K:9 is significant, but with a 4.14 ERA on the year, his possible upside is for the most part diminished.
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