General manager Jon Daniels announced this morning that top prospect Neftali Feliz is moving from the rotation to the bullpen at Triple-A, signaling that the Rangers have him in their plans as a reliever for the second half.
"We'd like to see if he's an option to help the major-league club in that role," Daniels said. "We still feel he may start for us in the future, but we're going to go down this path first."
Letting young pitchers get their feet wet in the majors as relievers is never a bad idea and Feliz has averaged under five innings per start at Triple-A, so if he's going to help the Rangers down the stretch the bullpen makes sense. With that said, hopefully Daniels and company haven't given up on the notion of Feliz being a starter long term.
In terms of raw stuff Feliz is second-to-none among minor-league pitchers and Baseball America ranked him as the 10th-best prospect in all of baseball after he posted a 2.69 ERA with 153 strikeouts in 127 innings between Single-A and Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2008.
Feliz hasn't been nearly as dominant at Triple-A this season, posting a 3.86 ERA with shaky control and "only" 55 strikeouts in 60.2 innings, but his performance has actually been exceptional for a 21-year-old in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League where the average player is five years his senior.