With the season a couple of months away, what has to break right for the Rangers to contend again in 2015?
What if Neftali Feliz can finally fully get over the 2011 World Series collapse? What if he can rediscover his greatness from 2010 and 2011 as a top-notch big-league closer? What if he can find that high-90s or triple-digit mph heat again with any level of consistency?
After the way he 2014 season went, it's really hard to know what to expect from Feliz, who was once a dominant closer and the AL Rookie of the Year not that long ago.
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Feliz was given every chance to reclaim his closer's role in spring training last year, but he failed miserably after missing most of the 2013 season before returning from Tommy John surgery in September. Joakim Soria recovered from Tommy John surgery of his own to snatch the closer's role and return to his former all-star status before being dealt away to Detroit as part of Texas' firesale.
That opened the door for Feliz, then in the minors, to come back in July, and the results were very mixed. At times, he was dominant. Then, the next day he'd struggle to break 92 mph and get shelled. It was frustrating to watch. On the surface, Feliz's numbers were excellent. He posted a 1.99 ERA in 31 2/3 innings over 30 appearances. He had 13 saves.
But a deeper look had reasons for concern, namely his career-low 6.0 strikeouts per nine inning — far from a number becoming of a big-league closer. You have to hope Feliz can find his velocity with more consistency in 2015, and if he can, he could be back to his dominant self. If he can't, it could be a long year for Feliz and the Rangers could be looking for a new closer.