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Colorado Rockies prospects: No. 29, Ryan Feltner

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Ryan Feltner profiles as a likely reliever, but there’s still a chance he remains a starter

29. Ryan Feltner (105 points, 12 ballots)

Feltner burst onto the PuRPs prospect scene when he dazzled in an electric 30 2⁄3 inning professional debut in 2018 in Grand Junction, during which time he had a 0.88 ERA and 11.4 K/9 rate. That came on the backs of an excellent Cape Cod League performance (as a reliever) that vaulted him up draft lists all the way to the 4th round, where the Rockies nabbed him and signed him for slot value ($434.7K). Entering 2019, fans and prospect writers alike wondered if the 22-year-old righty could approximate that level of dominance in Low A Asheville.

In short, no. A step up in competition (Feltner was about league average age) resulted in a 5.07 ERA in 119 innings over 25 starts, though Feltner’s 8.8 K/9 rate is encouraging. A hitter-friendly home park in Asheville, where Feltner has made 60% of his starts with a 6.27 ERA that was 3 runs higher than the ERA of his road starts, didn’t help either. On the positive side, Feltner’s 3.77 xFIP and .357 BABIP indicate that he was somewhat unfortunate to get those results.

Feltner’s usage seemed to be metered in 2019 (as it was the year prior), as the 23-year-old went five innings or fewer (sometimes despite lower pitch counts) in 21 of his 25 starts — in the other four starts he lasted six innings, all in April/May. He was also ejected from one start for applying pine tar to his glove, for which he received a two-week suspension.

Baseball Prospectus is the high organization on Feltner, ranking him 18th in the system last month. Here’s Jeffrey Paternostro on him:

Feltner struggled in his pro debut for Asheville, but the stuff was better than the performance—which was a recurring theme for him in college as well. He offers easy mid-90s heat as a starter, with a fastball that could play up in relief—where he’s likely to end up. There’s a potential above-average, low-80s slider with late two-plane action as well. Is it another 95-and-a-slider guy? Yes it sure is. You’d have preferred to see Feltner handle the South Atlantic League better as a major college arm, so there is more risk in this profile than some of the other reliever arms ahead of him, but he generally slots in the same “potential setup guy” band otherwise.

Feltner is 25th in the system for FanGraphs as a FV 40 prospect:

Feltner spent a chunk of his college career in the bullpen, and he projects there long term. His arm action is quite long, and while he can bully hitters with his fastball in the zone, he lacks precise command of his stuff. He lives in the mid-90s with tail as a starter and has a diving changeup that we think will miss big league bats. The slider has big sweeping action but is more easily identifiable out of his hand.

Feltner ranks 26th in the system according to MLB.com:

Feltner’s composure and maturity have already made a strong impression on the Rockies, and he’s shown, at least early, more feel to pitch than anticipated. He challenges hitters with a fastball that sits at 94 mph and touches 97 regularly. His changeup is his best secondary offering, thrown with fade and excellent arm speed deception. His slider currently isn’t a true weapon, and he focused on improving his breaking ball over the offseason so it becomes more viable.

Feltner showed better command than he had at Ohio State, with an ability to work to all four quadrants of the strike zone. If that continues, he has the chance to start. If not, he showed that his stuff plays very well when he closed during that stint on the Cape.

2080 Baseball’s Adam McInturff saw him in April 2019 and also tagged Feltner as a FV 40 prospect. Here was his summary (there’s a lot of good granular info in the report as well):

Hard-throwing SP lacking pitchability or control/command to remain in rotation long-term. Projects better in relief, where velo can play up. Middle relief ceiling, FB can get him there but don’t see swing/miss secondary for leverage innings.

Here’s the video accompanying that 2080 scouting report:

The scouting consensus is that if Feltner makes it to the Show, it will be as a middle reliever. If that’s the case, a strong fastball and decent changeup could carry him there within 2-3 years, making him a candidate to be the first Major Leaguer among the 2018 draft class. Frankly though, I don’t think Feltner makes this list if not for his potential to stick in the rotation, and the uneven (albeit unlucky) 2019 performance in Asheville puts that possibility into question. In 2020 Feltner will have to contend with the hitter-friendly California League, where similar challenges await. That’s why Feltner dropped just off my personal ballot (FV 35+).