19. Ryan Feltner (327 points, 27 ballots)
Though his prospect pedigree as a 4th rounder in the 2018 draft hardly made him an obscure name in the system, Ryan Feltner didn’t receive any votes on the 2018 midseason Purple Row prospects list. Fast forward a few months and Feltner is far from obscure now. An electric 30 2⁄3 inning professional debut in Grand Junction made the right-handed starter impossible to ignore with the electorate and he vaults all the way into the top 20 this time around.
The 6’4”, 190 pound hurler was ranked as the #156 prospect by MLB.com in the 2018 draft, making him an “overdraft” when the Rockies took him 126th overall out of Ohio State on the strength of his excellent high-90s fastball velocity and his dominant performance as a full-time reliever in the prestigious Cape Code league during the summer of 2017. Colorado signed Feltner for slot value ($434.7k) and assigned him to rookie ball in Grand Junction, where Feltner pitched against similarly-aged prospects.
What followed was the type of dominant debut Rockies fans are always looking for in Rookie ball, especially from college pitchers placed at the level. In 30 2⁄3 innings over 9 starts, Feltner was death to hitters. He allowed only 16 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs while striking out 39 hitters in his professional debut. That makes for some fantastic rate stats: 0.88 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 11.4 K/9 rate, 1.2 BB/9 rate, 60% GB rate, and .157 batting average allowed. Now, Feltner’s 2.80 FIP and 92% strand rate indicate that his run prevention results were a little fortunate, but those are still downright excellent numbers for a pitching prospect.
As is often the case for pitching prospects in their debut professional season, Feltner’s output was throttled back by the Rockies. His maximum pitch count was 64 and the longest he lasted in a start was 4 innings. No doubt this ability to rev up for fewer pitches against lineups who didn’t get to see Feltner three times helped his numbers, which is why his full-season debut in 2019 with either Asheville or Lancaster (my money’s on the former, though it’s possible he sees High A before the year is out) will be telling for the 22-year old.
Here’s some pre-draft video of Feltner from March 2018 courtesy of 2080 Baseball:
Accompanying that video is 2080’s pre-draft evaluation of Feltner by Burke Granger:
Working with a projectable 6’4” and 195 frame, Feltner has a simple delivery, with moderate effort and occasional recoil in his finish. Working primarily off a plus fastball at 92-to-95 mph, Feltner kept opposing hitters off balance by filling the zone with a healthy dose of secondary offerings. Thrown in the low-to-mid 80s, his best breaking pitch is his slider, with sharp two-plane break, while his curveball is more of a show me pitch that lacks consistent bite. Perhaps most encouraging is the development of Feltner’s firm 82-to-86 mph changeup, flashing above-average with tumble, and frequent arm-side fade.
Feltner has been clocked as high as 98 mph and can carry a 93-95 mph fastball deep into games, with good downhill plane and some armside run. His changeup can be a plus pitch at times, featuring deceptive arm speed as well as fade. He flashed an improved slider on the Cape last summer but lacks feel to spin and has pitched with a below-average breaking ball for much of 2018.
While Feltner generates premium starter velocity without much effort, hitters see the ball well against him and don’t miss his fastball as much as would be expected. His control and command lack consistency, which also makes him vulnerable. The consensus is that he’s best suited for a relief role as a pro, and he could have a plus-plus heater in shorter stints.
Feltner’s profile is highlighted in the above evaluation by a grade 65 fastball and a 55 changeup, marred by 45 control. He has clearly had success in a relief role in the past and may be ticketed there in the future by the Rockies. It’s easy to argue that a measure of his effectiveness in 2018 can be tied to the shorter outings Feltner was asked to complete in Grand Junction, thereby allowing his stuff to play up against rookie ball hitters.
I’m therefore quite intrigued by what role Feltner will play in 2019 — his level assignment (Asheville vs. Lancaster) as well as how long a leash he’ll receive as a starter by the Rockies. The stuff profile suggests a future in relief but the results were so stellar as a starter that the Rockies will likely evaluate Feltner in the rotation until it no longer makes sense. Either way, Feltner has the opportunity to move quickly through the system with his profile, making him a candidate to be the first Major Leaguer among the 2018 draft class. Accounting for pedigree, production, and likely role, I ranked Feltner 22nd on my list in the 40 Future Value tier as a back-end starter or middle reliever.