Nine who got away: #3, Neftali Feliz

Neftali’s the one on the R. Not sure who’s the dude on the L.

Seven years ago I met 17-year-old Neftali Feliz at the Braves’ Dominican Academy in San Francisco de Marcoris. Special assistant to the GM Jose Martinez told me if there was one prospect who was a sure thing, it was Neftali. Even then he looked the part, with a lean, solid frame, oversized hands and a mature mound presence.

Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer, Feliz remains the prize of the Teixeira trade. He’s allowed only 126 hits in 205 IP, striking out 201. Despite occasionally erratic control, Feliz’s career WHIP remains under 1.000.

After two dominant seasons as Texas’ closer, Neftali was moved to the rotation last year and, in his debut as a starter, hurled 7 shutout innings against Seattle. Those who suggest Feliz’s injury was caused by his move to the rotation don’t know what they’re talking about. Neftali’s a big kid and was a starter in the minors with the Braves. I have little doubt he’ll develop into a solid No. 2, winning 15 to 18 games a year.

If he improves his command, Feliz could be a potential ace.

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