Searching for Saves: Milwaukee Brewers: Is Neftali Feliz The Best Closing Option?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Milwaukee Brewers recently added Neftali Feliz, a move that makes sense after they’ve traded away three potential closing candidates since the 2016 Trade Deadline.  They need someone to pitch late in games, but is Feliz the answer?  While he has proven capable of doing the job before (99 career saves, including 72 for the Rangers between 2010 and 2011), he’s not the same pitcher that he once was.

Injuries have played a role, though Feliz did show an uptick in his strikeout stuff as he posted his best K/9 (10.23 K/9) since debuting over 31.0 IP for the Rangers in 2009.  He rediscovered his fastball, averaging 96.86 mph on his fourseam fastball (his best mark since 2011).  Considering the amount he threw the pitch (70.1%), having success with it is paramount:

.205 BAA, 15.36% Whiff%

Those are great numbers, but can we expect them to continue?  The Batting Average Against came courtesy of a lot of luck (.238 BABIP), and while his fastball has often been his best swing and miss pitch it was actually his slider that soared in effectiveness (20.00% Whiff%).  Maybe that came courtesy of his time in Pittsburgh, and we now have to hope he can take that success with him.

Then we have the potential for significant home run issues.  As it is he posted a 1.68 HR/9 last season, and while we would expect an improvement he was hit hard overall (37.0% Hard%) and is moving to a better hitter’s ballpark.  In other words he’s likely going to carry an elevated home run rate while his overall .240 BABIP is going to rise.

Now throw in unimpressive control (3.52 BB/9), and what exactly are we buying?  It’s easy to argue that the team has higher upside alternatives, simply waiting for him to fail or be traded:

Corey Knebel – He would’ve been the favorite to open the season as the closer, prior to the trade, though he has his warts as well (7.7% SwStr%, 22.8% O-Swing% make us think the strikeouts are unsustainable and he has control issues).  In this case there’s no reason not to consider Feliz and his experience.

Jacob Barnes – No one is talking about him, but it’s easy to argue that he’s the best bullpen arm Milwaukee has and will ultimately become the closer.  Here’s a little snippet from Rotoprofessor’s 2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide highlighting why:

“Formerly a starter, Barnes moved to the bullpen in 2015 and has clearly taken to the role.  He showed strikeouts and control both at Triple-A (9.27 K/9, 2.82 BB/9 over 22.1 IP) and in the Majors (8.78 K/9, 2.03 BB/9 over 26.2 IP), and the strikeout mark in the Majors could rise (14.8% SwStr%).  He showed more than enough groundballs, with a 1.25 GO/AO at Triple-A (1.00 in the Majors, courtesy of a 48.6% groundball rate).”

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MILB.com

*** Order Rotoprofessor’s 2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide for Just $7.00 By Clicking Here!!   Not only will you get all the help you need to dominate your fantasy draft, but you will also be entered to win a Noah Syndergaard autographed baseball, complete with “Thor” inscription! ***

Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catcher03/20/1702/28/17
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Shortstop02/13/1703/15/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
03/19/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

#21-40 |03/02/17
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Relief Pitcher01/02/17--

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