15. Ryan Feltner (267 points, 19 ballots)
Ryan Feltner was one of the best pitchers in the system in 2021, rocketing up all the way from High-A up to nabbing a 40-man roster spot en route to a cameo in the majors. The 6’4”, 25-year-old righty pitcher had struggled in 2019 in Low-A, but some notable command improvements made during the pandemic shutdown gave the Rockies confidence to start him in 2021 at High-A Spokane.
In Spokane against competition who was on average about 0.8 years younger, Feltner showed those command improvements had some staying power. Over seven starts, he threw 37 1⁄3 frames of 2.17 ERA ball with a 1.18 WHIP and a strong 10.8 K/9 rate against a 4.3 BB/9 rate (4.48 xFIP). That was enough for the righty to get the bump up to Double-A in mid-June, where he was 0.7 years younger than league average.
In 13 starts with Hartford, Feltner’s results were also strong even against tougher competition. In 72 2⁄3 innings, he posted a 2.85 ERA (4.01 xFIP) with a 1.24 WHIP, 9.9 K/9 rate, and 2.7 BB/9 rate. After seeing his usage metered early on in his professional career, Feltner went at least six innings in seven of his last eight starts (including a seven-inning, two-hit, no-run, nine-strikeout gem on August 4th).
The Rockies saw enough in this performance to select Feltner’s contract in early September, and he was called up to the big league club for a two-start stint. Feltner didn’t show particularly well in his MLB cup of coffee, allowing eight runs on nine hits and five walks with six strikeouts (all of which came in the latter outing) in 6 1⁄3 innings across those two games. Still, it was a remarkable achievement for a player who had started the year in A-ball. He was optioned down to Triple-A to end the season, where he appeared in just one game.
Here’s some tape on Feltner from 2019 courtesy of 2080 Baseball:
The 6-foot-4 right-hander does have a solid enough three-pitch mix to give him the chance to start, though there’s still work to be done in terms of command and execution for him to stick in that role. While he can crank his fastball up into the mid-90s in shorter stints, he’s more likely to sit in the low-90s as a starter. Even without premium velocity, he misses bats up in the zone and the Rockies want him to be effective down as well so he isn’t so predictable with his heater. He can land his mid-80s slider for strikes and also will take something off to fold in a get-me-over slower curve on occasion. He has feel for a changeup, but the Rockies would like to see him use it more.
Tweaks to shorten his arm action in back paid dividends in 2021 as he repeated his delivery more effectively and showed signs of being able to pitch to both sides of the plate. There’s still hope he can land in a rotation, even if the fastball-slider combination would look very good in the ‘pen.
Feltner flashed an electric arm at Ohio State but had some command issues; the Rockies shortened his arm swing and that part improved. His raw stuff is down a tick from college heights but he’s now a useful big league arm of some sort.
Feltner was ranked 17th in the system for FanGraphs as a 40 FV prospect in January:
We projected Feltner as a fastball/changeup reliever coming out of Ohio State, but he’s kept himself afloat as a starter through the minors and made his big league debut in September. The Rockies shortened up his arm swing after drafting him, and while Feltner may not have a picturesque starter’s delivery, this iteration gives him a better shot of being mechanically consistent than his college mechanics did. Feltner’s slider has typical two-plane movement, but his mid-70s curveball is more of a loopy show-me pitch that may have diminishing returns the more opposing hitters see it. Those two breaking balls are deployed much more frequently than his changeup at this point. We’ve adjusted our role projection for Feltner a little bit and now consider him a multi-inning relief prospect. Inefficient strike-throwing starters tend to have nastier stuff than he does, and Feltner’s curveball probably works best going just once through the lineup. Plus, allowing him to let it rip in short stints might help him throw harder and have an impact fastball rather than an average one, which is reflected in his pitch grades.
Feltner’s ultimate role still seems to lean a bit more toward the bullpen than the rotation, though he’ll begin 2022 in Albuquerque’s starting rotation. With his mid-90s fastball and multiple potential good secondary offerings combined with improving command, Feltner has the tools to help the Rockies in both capacities over the next few years. Feltner’s big league proximity and role flexibility led me to rank him 21st on my personal list as a 40 FV player.