25. Ryan Feltner (86 points, 11 ballots)
Feltner was drafted in large part due to an excellent Cape Cod League performance (as a reliever) that vaulted him up draft lists all the way to the fourth round and the Rockies nabbed him, signing him for slot value ($434.7K). The right-hander 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 as a starter. Unfortunately, a step up in competition to Low-A Asheville in 2019 didn’t show a continuation of that dominance.
In 119 innings over 25 starts with Asheville, Feltner posted a 5.07 ERA — though his 8.8 K/9 rate was encouraging. A hitter-friendly home park in Asheville — where he has made 60% of his starts with a 6.27 ERA that was three runs higher than the ERA of his road starts — didn’t help matters. 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 was metered in 2019 (as it was in 2018), as he 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.
In the several scouting reports below, there seems to be general disagreement as to which of Feltner’s secondary offerings are best. Given Coors Field as his future pitching home, I would assume the Rockies will focus the 24-year-old more on the changeup and slider than the curveball. Command/control grades vary from 35 to 50, indicating more disagreement on likelihood to reach major league effectiveness.
Much of the difficulties Feltner had in the South Atlantic League last year can be tied to delivery issues he’s continuing to clean up. He has a tendency to kick out his front leg, tends to be a little too merry-go-round with his body and doesn’t always stay on top of the baseball. When he’s on line and on top, he’s a major strike thrower who can get weak contact and miss bats with a three-pitch mix, headlined by a fastball that’s up to 97 mph and a solid average changeup that has good fade to it. His slider is behind, but has a chance to be his third at least average offering.
Feltner fought through some elbow soreness and fatigue during the 2019 season, but was able to come out of it and pitched well over his final five starts of the year. If he can iron out his mechanical issues on the mound, he still has the chance to be the rotation piece the Rockies thought they were getting in the Draft.
They highlight Feltner’s fastball as plus (60 grade) with a 50 changeup and 50 control.
Baseball Prospectus is the high organization on the righty, ranking him 18th in the system in December 2019. 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.
Here the slider takes a secondary status, not the change.
Feltner is currently 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.
Then again, FanGraphs thinks Feltner’s third pitch is his curveball rather than his slider.
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.
In this report, the change is the lowest graded pitch, below both the curve and slider.
Here’s the video accompanying that 2080 scouting report:
Though there are the above disagreements on his best secondary offerings and his command, the scouting consensus is that if Feltner makes it to The Show, it will be as a middle reliever. With his plus fastball and multiple potential good secondaries, the right-hander seems to be a good candidate to do so. 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.
Feltner’s only organized action during 2020 was his participation in fall instructs. The nice thing is that Rockies AGM of Player Development Zach Wilson was complimentary of his performance there:
“[Feltner is] sitting 95-97 mph with a pretty nasty slider,” Wilson said. “He’s dominating down here.”
He’ll likely debut in High-A Spokane (that’s weird to type) to start 2021, with a decent chance to end the year in Double-A if things go well for him. In a thin Rockies system, Feltner’s stuff and starter potential was enough for him to rank 25th on my personal ballot as a 35+ FV player.