Chances are, you have already heard about the legend that is Durbin Feltman. Drafted in the third round of the 2018 MLB draft, Feltman is one of the most pro-ready relievers in recent memory. While he’s only the 12th-ranked prospect in the Red Sox system, he could easily be the first one to make it to the majors and play a sizeable role.
Red Sox Prospects: Durbin Feltman
Despite pitching just 23.1 innings in the minors, Feltman has already made a name for himself. While he’s never pitched above Single-A, the young righty has dominated every single opponent he’s faced. Feltman finished his 2018 season with a ridiculous 1.93 ERA, 1.10 FIP, and a 13.89 K/9 rate. Additionally, he walked just 1.93 batters per nine innings, which is highly encouraging considering command was his biggest weakness entering the draft.
Like most great relievers in today’s day and age, Feltman has an elite fastball that’s nearly impossible to hit. The pitch sits in the mid 90’s but has the potential to reach 99 miles per hour. Additionally, the fastball possesses great motion, making it hard for hitters to pick up.
As great as his fastball is, Feltman also possesses a great complementary slider that would be most pitchers best pitch. The slider sits in the mid-80’s and can move all the way across the zone. This pitch combination has proved deadly at every level and projects to play just as well at the major league level.
What To Work On
Really, there isn’t much more Feltman needs to do before he’s pro-ready. His fastball and slider are elite and he’s yet to face competition capable of hitting it. The biggest reason he’s only ranked 12th in the farm system is that he’s a pure reliever. All of the other pitchers ahead of him at least have the chance of becoming starting pitchers in the majors.
Feltman will never be a starter, which obviously limits his ceiling. However, he has the ability to be one of the elite relief arms in all of baseball for the foreseeable future. With bullpen arms becoming more and more valuable, Feltman should have a big role on the Red Sox whenever he makes it up to the professional level.
Feltman’s Path to the Majors
With Craig Kimbrel likely to depart in free agency, some might expect Feltman to start his 2019 season at the major league level. While that’s not completely out of the question, it’s probably something the Red Sox should avoid.
Feltman has yet to competition better than what’s at High-A Salem. The general consensus is that most of the players in Single-A are purely minor league depth guys, while the best prospects are usually found in Double-A or Triple A. Players like Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers have essentially skipped AAA, but that was after spending significant time in AA Portland.
The Red Sox best course of action would be to let Feltman start the year with AA Portland and let him face something closer to major league competition. Hitters will be better and Feltman might need to adjust his pitching strategy to get these better hitters out. It’s best for him to learn these lessons in the minors where winning and losing doesn’t really matter.
However, it probably won’t take him long to figure it out. Feltman’s stuff is some in any level of baseball and, by all accounts, he’s a pretty smart pitcher. Starting him in Portland is definitely the smart move, and the rest of his development will build off how he does against this level of competition. If he continues to dominate, there’s no reason the Red Sox shouldn’t waste his time in Pawtucket. There’s no such thing as too many good bullpen arms, especially for a guy as talented as Feltman. Look for him to make the major league roster as early as May or June and to remain a fixture in that bullpen once promoted.