Brewers Neftali Feliz: New Closer in Town?

Neftali Feliz is heading to the Brewers after inking a one-year deal with the club. What is his fantasy value heading into 2017?

The Brewers made a quiet move this week when they signed Neftali Feliz to a one-year deal. The former stud closer has had his fair share of ups and downs but rebounded nicely in 2016 with the Pirates. What is his fantasy value in 2017 now that he is presumably the Brewers’ closer?

Feliz burst onto the scene in 2010 with the Rangers. He notched 40 SV that season earning him Rookie of the Year honors. In 2011 he had another fine 32 SV campaign but things would go south as was transitioned back into the rotation the following season. During his transition back to the rotation he would fall victim to TJ surgery in 2013.

He was able to return in 2014 but his diminished stuff was evident. Those struggles leaked in 2015 where he would be cut by the Rangers and then have a rough stint with the Tigers to finish the year. But, like many pitchers before him, he seemed to right the ship last season after landing with the Pirates.

He would finish the 2016 season with a 3.52 ERA/1.13 WHIP/ 61 K line over 53 innings. He simply looked better on the mound and for the first time in years, it seemed as though he was nearly back to what he once showed during his breakout. One of the biggest bright spots during his rebound was that his fastball velocity jumped back up to 96 mph.

This uptick in his velocity allowed him to be able to attack hitters like he once did and the numbers reflect it. His 61 K were his highest output since 2010 and his 10.2 SO/9 was the highest of his career. He will not get back to that form that showed during his breakout, but it was nice to see feature the stuff he once could.

The move to Miller Park may scare some off, but Feliz posted a career-high 38% GB rate last season.  He also kept his FB rate below the 40% for the first time in his career which hopefully is the product of his more contact-driven approach on the mound.

The Brewers shelled out $5 million for Feliz so it appears as though they have their sights on him being the closer. His main in-house competition will be Corey Knebel for the role. Knebel posted a 4.68 ERA last season so he did not exactly light the world on fire. Feliz has the new contract, is coming off a better season and has the prior experience to his advantage.

In terms of SV chances, the Brewers are an interesting club. They have been busy in the offseason and if they get anything from their pitching staff, they may be very competitive.  They are not going to challenge for a division title but all fantasy owners need is for the team to offer Feliz his fair of SV chances.

Feliz won’t cost fantasy owners nearly anything on draft day. He will be a late-round flier but remains an interesting selection. The velocity appears to be back and the improvements he made in batted ball profile are encouraging. Do not sleep on him at the draft this spring as he could be a sneaky source for 30+ SV and 70 K.