Sometimes when there’s absolutely nothing happening in the MLB offseason, you start to think about hypothetical situations and why certain things aren’t happening. For example, what is going on with Craig Kimbrel? Really? Kimbrel has been one of the most dominant and overpowering closers in the history of major league baseball.
Yeah, sure, the most recent memory we have of him is his poor postseason performance and if you had asked me just after the Red Sox won the World Series, I would have said stay miles away from re-signing Kimbrel because I don’t think my heart could handle what he was doing on the mound anymore. But at this point, we’re just days away from pitchers and catchers reporting for MLB Spring Training and Kimbrel–along with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper–are STILL sitting here unsigned.
And let me say this. The MLB offseason used to be one of the best parts of baseball. Free agents were flying off of the shelves left and right and you almost knew who was going to be on which club by Christmas time. Hell, Curt Schilling signed with the Red Sox in November in 2003.
Now we’re sitting on our hands waiting for anything to happen and there’s give or take zero excitement as we head into Spring Training. And I attribute that to the lack of moves made because of this trend that really made itself apparent last offseason with J.D. Martinez.
Due to the lack of signings and former Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel still sitting on the free agent market, I started to think about some alternatives as to what this team could do if Kimbrel does end up elsewhere. The idea has been thrown around of having Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier almost split the role but that potential situation makes me physically ill. I’m not taking anything away from those two guys at all. You probably won’t find someone who has been more on the Ryan Brasier bandwagon than me. I was calling for this guy to be Boston’s solidified eighth-inning arm midway through last year near when he first appeared in the majors.
And Matt Barnes, sure. When he’s firing on all cylinders, he’s impeccable. But he’s so streaky that I can’t rely on that coming out in the ninth inning against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. Well, I guess I really couldn’t with Kimbrel in the 2018 postseason either.
With a lack of depth in the Red Sox bullpen as the current status and a plethora of veterans, including old friend Carson Smith, signing to minor league deals, is there an alternative backup plan that the Red Sox could be waiting out? The thought at the start of MLB Not-So-Hot-Stove season was that Boston could ink one of the other two big-name relievers on the market. Whether it was Adam Ottavino who signed with the Yankees or David Robertson who signed with the Phillies, the options were there but the Red Sox seemed to not show immense interest towards them.
In the 2018 MLB Draft, the Boston Red Sox went with two high school power hitters through the first two rounds of selections. In the third round and with the 100th overall pick, the Red Sox selected a hard-throwing relief pitcher out of TCU named Durbin Feltman. And I think that name right there eventually, and possibly soon will be your answer to the Red Sox back end of the bullpen.
Feltman, as I said, was taken in the third round and during his time at TCU, he was dominant in relief. Pitching three years in college he was one of the best on the mound and in his 2018 season, was nearly unhittable.
In 2018 through 24.1 innings pitched, Feltman’s ERA was 0.74 through 18 appearances and had just one loss on his record. His 2017 season wasn’t nearly as spectacular as he had a 3.64 ERA over 29 appearances, but he bounced back in a big way before being drafted in 2018.
According to reports, the six-foot, right-handed flame thrower touches 97mph on a consistent basis that occasionally touches 99mph. Being only 21-years old, all that tells me is that as he climbs the ranks through the Boston Red Sox farm system, that number will elevate to 100mph before we know it. Coupled with his fastball, Feltman is also known to have a devastating slider that, if he can prove he has complete and total command of at the major league level, Feltman has the potential to turn himself into a very reliable relief pitcher or closer on the big stage.
His command is seen as average which again, is something that can and will be worked on as he makes his way through the minors. But the reports coming out of college on this kid are something that should make Red Sox fans at least intrigued to see what this kid can do.
Because he’s a relief pitcher that has already shown success in the farm system–putting together numbers like 1.93 in 22 games with some of Boston’s lower level clubs–I’m almost certain, barring injury, that we will be seeing Feltman’s major league debut at some point this season and my assumption is that it will come relatively early. With such a lack of depth behind Brasier and Barnes, I’m sure Alex Cora and Dave Dombrowski will be calling for reinforcements relatively quickly once they see that those two can’t handle such a heavy load.
I’ve been personally excited to see this kid at the major league level since he was drafted. There was speculation that he may arrive in Boston at some point in 2018 but I never thought that made any sense. The bullpen was shaky at times and could have certainly used the depth, but I was concerned with bringing up a kid who was just drafted too early because as we all know with pitchers, once they get their confidence shaken a little too much, some just can’t bounce back i.e. Henry Owens. Remember when Henry Owens was supposed to be the next big, homegrown talent on the Red Sox staff?
This is all a hypothetical situation that I’m throwing together here with the idea that the team won’t be bringing back Craig Kimbrel. Although I’m sure that his eventual contract won’t command 6-years, $100 million like it was initially reported, it will be something significant I would think. The Red Sox have clearly shown that they are trying to cut back slightly on payroll in anticipation of some hefty contracts that will be down the pipeline in the near future. But would I take Craig Kimbrel on something to the tune of 3-years, $45 million? Absolutely I would.
And if you do end up with Kimbrel back on the roster, great. I still see Durbin Feltman being on the major league roster at least by August. If he ends up being the overpowering and successful relief arm that the Red Sox think that he could be, I’m assuming, make him and Kimbrel a devastating one-two punch in the eighth and ninth innings.
Durbin Feltman is one of the prospects that I’m extremely excited to see. The soon to be 22-year old might have a bright, bright future with the Boston Red Sox and he’s someone to keep a lookout for.