Dave · February 26, 2005 at 6:33 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Hickey has one of those fun articles on Felix that bring a smile to your face.

Yesterday, Hernandez faced hitters for the first time this spring. Outfield prospect Wladimir Balentien and 2003 No. 1 draft pick Adam Jones stepped in against Hernandez and tried to hold their own.

It wasn’t easy. Jones had his bat broken, not by a fastball but by what the shortstop called “a real heavy changeup.”

I remember in 2001, when a kid reported to St. Louis Cardinals camp fresh off a year dominating the Midwest League. He had talent, no doubt, but was only 21 years old and, well, the Cards would have to be crazy to have him skip three levels and jump from low-A to the majors. But Tony LaRussa wouldn’t stop talking about him and finally decided that there’s no way he could send one of the best players in camp back to the minors. So Albert Pujols made the team out of spring training, and thats worked pretty well, I think.

I’ve stopped underestimating what the special ones might be capable of. Felix is a whole other level of special.


40 Responses to “Felix”

  1. David on February 26th, 2005 6:54 am

    Isn’t the more appropriate Cardinal parallel Rick Ankiel? This kid is 18, almost 19, years old. I’d rather have him start 24-25 games in AAA and toss 160 innings or so. I doubt we’ll compete this year, even if was up with the big club winning 12-14 games. So why take the risk?

    Of course, maybe we could have a 6-man rotation and the major league training staff could monitor his usage more closely. I sure do want to see him pitch. But I’m patient, and the M’s should be too.

  2. Ty on February 26th, 2005 7:30 am

    After reading articles like this, I keep changing my mind. At first I was thinking that there is no way he should come up, and they should let him have at least another year or so. After reading something like this, it makes you want to bring him up so he can come dominate the Major Leagues. But if we had to send him down, it could ruin his confidence. But maybe we don’t have to send him down, because he’s doing great. Or maybe he’s just not ready…

    I could go on like that all day. I guess after reading things like that. I get impatient.

    I would say just let him have another year. It’s not really like we expect to win the World Series this season or anything. We still have most of our players at the end of the season. Good thing we signed most of them long term.

    Go Felix! Maybe not 2005, but maybe 2006.

  3. David J Corcoran on February 26th, 2005 7:34 am

    First of all, I agree with the Rick Ankiel statement. In fact, I was pretty sure that’s who you were talking about until y ou said Pujols. But we should remember Mr. Ankiel

    and re 2:

    It will ruin his confidence more if he comes up to the bigs and gets rocked at such a young age. Look at Travis Blackley minus the injury, his head was all screwed up upon being sent down.

  4. Tim on February 26th, 2005 7:48 am

    If this guy is Dwight Gooden good or Albert Pujols good, what are they waiting for? If you have a legitimate ace, that completely changes the face of the rotation. All of a sudden, Joel and Bobby look pretty good as your second and third pitchers.

    I understand the risks and service time considerations, but how often do you have the opportunity to play a guy with this much talent? If he is indeed as good as what is being written, the M’s become a completely different team. Not to mention the buzz he will create ($$$$) for both the M’s and MLB. I say play him.

  5. jm on February 26th, 2005 9:57 am


    when was the last time there was such a true kid phenom pitcher? was it really dwight gooden? remember how fun that was?

    play him!

  6. Evan on February 26th, 2005 10:04 am

    Keep him down.

    By all means, bring him up in August, but keep his innings down by leaving him Tacoma for a few months.

  7. Morisseau on February 26th, 2005 10:24 am

    my supreme preference is whichever option keeps him healthier — but remember, if they bring him up now, we get him cheap for his 19-24 years, whereas if they wait until 2006, he’s ours for cheap for his 20-25 years. Which I like better.

  8. Noel on February 26th, 2005 11:18 am

    Whatever the M’s do with Felix, whether they keep him up or send him down, the crucial thing will be to monitor his arm. Rafael Soriano only pitched 53.0 innings in 2003 and a further 3.1 innings in 2004 before his arm got hurt. Stuff can go wrong extremely quickly with pitchers. I wouldn’t mind if Felix stays up, or if he goes back to Tacoma, as long as they watch him like a hawk for signs of injury.

  9. Tim on February 26th, 2005 11:35 am

    I don’t think injury risk is any more or less in AAA. If anything, our minor league prospects are getting hurt by “monitoring” them in AAA (see basically any good pitching prospect the M’s have had the past 5 years). If nothing else, everyone will know how much he is pitching and Harvgrove can be held accountable for his innings. Plus, Price knows what he is doing with mechanics. I trust him much more than whoever is at the AAA level.

    As for the service time arguement, its a good one. But if he is really this good, how much better is he going to be next year? I say cash in now, the future is here.

  10. Bernard Aboba on February 26th, 2005 12:00 pm

    If the concern is about limiting his innings pitched, then I wonder whether letting him start (in Tacoma or in Seattle) is the right answer. Why not have him pitch in a setup or long relief role in Tacoma, and then bring him up once he has adjusted to that?

  11. dMIKE on February 26th, 2005 12:02 pm

    So where does Felix fit? He’s thrown very well in each of his stops, with a little aberration in AA. The 500+ ft. homer dented his young psychic. The kid is a teenager. Historically, 99.9% teenagers don’t fair well at the MLB level. Is he that .1% that does? Does he have the physical makeup or more importantly the mental makeup to adjust to the majors? I’d start him in warm AA with a short 85-90 pitch tether, working every fifth day. Raise him to AAA when the weather warms in May and June, stretching him out a little to 90+ and less than 100. This will let the M’s rotation scenario sort out and let him get his work in warm weather. If something goes bad with the M’s rotation, they have other options sans Felix in AAA that will play out just fine for this year. This is not the year to push your best prospect. A September call up – with no winter league – ST invitation would play best. The team will not contend this year. If they do, I’d be surprised. If they’re contending at the July trade deadline, then the “one arm” trade push to the playoffs scenario will help this year and next. Why set a top of the rotation pitcher back and tempt damage with anything other than a soft landing?

  12. Tim on February 26th, 2005 12:21 pm

    #11 – I’m not so sure about your 0.1% comment. I’m guessing that’s a subjective comment, not something based on hard-core facts. I’m not even aware of many prospects who have come up as teenagers. The only ones I do know have been great players from day one.

    As for confidence, the guy is going to have to adjust to major league pitching eventually. If he dominates MLB hitters in spring training, I don’t see how dominating in AA or AAA does him much good in this regard.

    How do we know the team won’t contend this year? Sure, if you are the D-Rays, that makes sense. But this division is winable and anything can happen in the playoffs. I wouldn’t bet on it, but anything can happen in baseball (see 2002 Angels). I say give yourself the best shot of winning now, without sacrficing your future.

    Now, it appears you think pitching Felix is sacrificing the team’s future. I think that’s a logical arguement, I just don’t share it. But you make some good points.

  13. Matt Williams on February 26th, 2005 1:05 pm

    But we should remember Mr. Ankiel

    I certainly do, he’s my favorite pitcher of all time. Go back and look at all those wild pitches. Notice something in common? Cell-phone idiots in the background.

    He wasn’t a wild pitcher, he just hated the “hey look honey, I’m on TV!” waving cell-phone idiots. Unfortunately for him you can’t pitch a single MLB game without having to see dozens of them. Oh, and that net prevents you from ever really nailing them.

  14. dMIKE on February 26th, 2005 1:30 pm

    Thanks Tim. Here’s my rationale: This year’s rotation probably has more questions than answers. Moyer is a 42 year-old soft tosser who had problem last year and probably won’t be on the club next year. Pineiro was injured last year and how effective he will be this year and beyond is a question. Meche is a wildcard – will good Meche or the bad one pitch this year? Madritsch has a history of arm injury. What did last year’s uber use do to his arm? What will a second time through the league be like for him? As for the fifth starter, I’m not expecting anything above .500 or the south side of .500 ERA for anyone they’re projecting. If everything breaks right – well, it all has to break right for the club to contend. Personally, I think this rotation is a mess. I wouldn’t throw a teenage rookie into this mess. I think AAA pitching needs to be sorted out too. I thoroughly advocate a soft landing for this teenager. This year’s minor league for him would be “getting his work” and a September call-up. I hope next year’s rotation will be more settled and Felix will be a year older. Another year’s minor league experience for a teenager is not that much to ask regardless of his “King” status.

  15. Spiegs on February 26th, 2005 1:57 pm

    If he’s good enough to play in the bigs, why should he start the season in Tacoma? Barring injury, King Felix will pitch in Seattle sooner or later this season, I for one hope it is sooner. As for the Ankiel comparison, didn’t he have some real tough issues to deal with off the field?

  16. The Ancient Mariner on February 26th, 2005 3:11 pm

    If they can’t keep Felix off the M’s, then fine; otherwise, that’s exactly what they should do.

    Re #12–remember A-Rod?

  17. troy on February 26th, 2005 3:16 pm

    Send him to Triple-A. I love the thought of him in Safeco as much as anybody, but I think the risks outweigh the rewards at this point. At least give him half a season of dominating AAA hitters before slapping him into the rotation – as someone mentioned, keeping him confident is important. I’d rather go too slow than too fast. Also, the pressure to send him back out there for one more inning isn’t nearly as strong in the minors as it is in the majors, because winning isn’t the bottom line. With Felix, patience will be a virtue.

  18. Noel on February 26th, 2005 3:39 pm

    Rany Jazayerli at BP commented in an online chat that Felix “had one of the highest G/F ratios in the minors last year when hitters actually made contact”. 🙂

    It’s going to be fun to see the infielders hoovering up groundballs when they’re not standing around watching strikeouts.

  19. Tim O on February 26th, 2005 4:20 pm

    Bottom line is whether he can pitch well against major league hitters. If he can, why keep him down in the minors. Many have advocated that since the Mariners can’t compete this year, better to save his eligibility for next year and beyond. But he could also get hurt at AAA and not contribute at all. The AL West should be competitive this year. I’d give the Angels the edge right now, but there is no inherent reasons the Mariners can’t compete, especially if Hernandez can have a Dwight Gooden type rookie season. If he’s ready to pitch, let him pitch. Monitoring his pitch count with the glare of major league media shouldn’t be more difficult than in the minors.

  20. Matt Staples on February 26th, 2005 5:48 pm

    I believe I start going off in this thread on about page 4 as to why Felix should *not* start the season with the M’s. I can’t bear to rehash it all here, so check it out. SportSpot is about as good as it gets as far as true “message boards” go, at any rate.


  21. firova on February 26th, 2005 6:14 pm

    Why is everyone worried about Felix’s confidence? He’s the one with the ball, after all. I’m no more worried about Felix’s confidence than I am about Jamie Moyer’s, though Moyer may really have something to worry about after giving up 44 home runs. Felix hasn’t done that and, I’ll wager, never will. The hitters are the ones whose confidence is more likely to be shaken after seeing this guy. He has the kind of stuff that will make veteran players wonder whether their bat speed is leaving them. I think he should be in AAA to start the season, but then again, why would it be any different to monitor his pitches in the minors v. the majors? If the argument is that you don’t want to tinker with major league games by using them to develop a young pitcher rather than “playing to win,” that doesn’t really matter if we’ve decided the M’s aren’t going to contend this year anyway, so there is nothing but upside if he is even moderately successful. His ultimate mission is to get Vladimir Guerrerro, Hank Blalock, and Eric Chavez out on a consistent basis, and there is no better way to do that than to pitch to Vladimir Guerrero, Hank Blalock, and Eric Chavez. The number of arm injuries at the minor league level in this organization make me think that I would rather have Price and the medical staff on hand every time out. (Of course, there is the Soriano issue.) It’s a tough one, but pitch and inning counts can be kept track of anywhere, and major league talent is major league talent. A nice problem to have, no?

  22. bilbo on February 26th, 2005 6:37 pm

    you usually don’t use your fifth starter til the 2nd or 3rd week of the season anyway, so let him get some controlled time in AAA during the first month of the season. If he continues to impress you can bring him up for the rest of the season. That way, he doesn’t get in a full year of service time but you still get to enjoy him in Seattle.

  23. Scraps on February 26th, 2005 6:55 pm

    I don’t understand why it’s riskier to pitch Felix in the majors than in the minors. Either way, he’s pitching as hard as he can for as long as he’s allowed to. Our best people are at the major league level, aren’t they? If he can get major league hitters out, let our major league coaches and doctors monitor him.

    As was pointed out above, the Mariners have a terrible record with the health of pitching prospects in the minors. It seems to me awfully hard to argue, with this organization, that minor league monitoring will protect his arm.

  24. Kearly on February 26th, 2005 9:42 pm

    Didn’t this very site post something a few weeks ago ridiculing the Seattle Times for its insistence on bringing up Felix?

  25. Kearly on February 26th, 2005 9:44 pm

    Sorry for the double post, but I would just like to add that Bavasi has come down pretty strongly on this issue. He doesn’t really care how great Felix is at camp, he’s got a plan to start him at AAA and he seems hell-bent on keeping that schedule.

    With such an important player, I too am willing to be patient. Losing this guy would devastate the future outlook of the team for years.

  26. ray on February 26th, 2005 10:14 pm

    I have read reports that show Felix already having the swagger of an MLB player. I have also read BP saying that there are ways to keep his pitch count down even if he does make the team. Look at this way. It has been determined (at least from the Angles last year) that Sele is only good for about 5 innings of work. And the M’s invited him to see if he can be a starter. Why not Felix for 5? That is a helava lot better than Sele for 5.

  27. DMZ on February 26th, 2005 10:14 pm

    Didn’t this very site post something a few weeks ago ridiculing the Seattle Times for its insistence on bringing up Felix?

    I took a particular article to task for its ill logic in supporting this, yet.

  28. ray on February 26th, 2005 10:44 pm

    I see your point DMZ. Heck I hope Campillo does a helava job and takes over the 5th spot behind Bobby. I suppose the question is contention. It seems the atmosphere in camp is contention — meaning the players feel they can play as well as any team in the AL west. With that enthusiasm, a real wanting to get back to the playoffs, and a wanting to put the best rotation together, they might feel compelled to put in Felix (if he shows domination in ST). There is also the marketing and average fan factor. Most fans will just hear the hype and then will probably fuel it some more which in turn will put pressure on the FO to bring in fans that want to see what they came for. Now if somehow (through magical means) Sele became the hyped one, I guarantee he would be in the rotation. I hope it never happens though.

  29. David J Corcoran on February 27th, 2005 10:41 am

    OK, say we call Felix up and we have to monitor his pitch count real carefully. We wouldn’t get the real Felix. We wouldn’t be getting the maximum Felix Innings we can get if we are having to monitor his pitch count real closely. Send him to AAA, and if we find ourselves in contention minus a good starter, we’ve got Felix. Otherwise, leave him in Tacoma, so we can use Felix fo 175-200 innings a year. Wasting a year of service time when he’s only going to pitch 125 innings is a waste of money.

  30. JPWood on February 27th, 2005 10:55 am

    Felix has only one session against the ST 40, and there he faced AAA batters, and that at the start of ST when hitters are nototiously behind the pitchers. If he can be as effective against Ichiro, Beltre, Boone, Ibanez (mixing L-R batters) in another 2-3 weeks, I would have serious second thoughts about sending him to Tacoma just to make sure he is adjusted mentally, pitches every 5th-6th day instead of facing Guerrero, Texiera and company in week one, getting only 2 starts in 4 weeks and eating a year of eligibility.
    But it would still take a lot to outweigh all the conditionals.

  31. SAL on February 27th, 2005 1:03 pm

    There are very few teenagers with the brains, maturity, and personality to succeed in the big leagues and not get messed up. Gooden was physically able to succeed, but who knows what effect being a superstar so young had on him. Another possible parallel is Joel Pineiro, who was rushed to the majors at age 21, was dazzling for half a season, and still doesnt have the consistently or stamina of a front of the rotation starter. Maybe this is the year for Joel, but I think his rookie year retarded his developement a bit. Even if Felix gets called up in august and makes big leaguers look silly for two months, that can set back his developement. That said, the most compelling argument ive heard for calling him up is that our AAA pitchers keep getting hurt, and he can be better monitored with Seattle. If Felix comes up, id like to see him in some long relief and get a few spot starts, rather than being thrust into a big league rotation right away. The ONLY way we call up Hernandez and put him in the rotation is if we are within 6-7 games or so of a playoff spot when rosters expand. This is certaintly possible, but not all that likely considering even as a 75-80 win team we might be 4th in the freakin’ AL west. If this guy’s arm goes down, i propose mass hara-kiri. Besides, not all 19 year old rookies immediatley dazzle guys like eric chavez, mark texeira, and vladimir guerrero.

  32. SAL on February 27th, 2005 1:03 pm

    *consistency, not consistently

  33. Spiegs on February 27th, 2005 2:38 pm

    Bottom line, if Felix is lights out this spring, they really won’t have a choice.

  34. jc on February 27th, 2005 3:22 pm

    The maturity of this pitcher seems to be what the people in the org worry about aka looper and brudage dont think he is mentally ready yet and history tells us its better for a pitcher to grow up mentally and get knocked around a little in the minors so when his 1st failure comes he will know how to handle it instead of trying to figure it out in the show.2-3 months in tacoma will be good for him to learn his kraft against older and better hitters then he has ever seen.There is a huge diffrence in hitters from double A and triple A and if people say there isnt there wrong good luck kid felix PLEASE STAY HEALTHY DONT GET THE ROTARCUFF CURSE THE MARINER MINORLEAGUE PHENOMS ALL GET….

  35. Danny Boy on February 27th, 2005 5:11 pm

    Long live King Felix!!!!!

  36. Coach on February 27th, 2005 7:52 pm

    I don’t pretend to know what is the right thing to do with Felix. To me, it doesn’t seem reasonable to argue that he should be kept in the minors to prevent damage to his arm at his current age versus bringing him up in a year or two. If he has mechanics that his body doesn’t support, then the damage is probably already done. I offer no proof, but I suspect that some of the injuries we attribute to “the minors” were accumulated earlier and only expressed themselves there. We should have insisted on the same amount of scrutiny at his age 14-18 as during his 18-19 should we not? Further, if the Mariners don’t intend to have him undergo biomechanical analysis, then it doesn’t matter where he throws, the risk would seem to be the same. I would think that some perspective is in order. His dsiplay of “electric” stuff so far in ST does not automatically mean he will be able to use that skill to consistently get major league outs. So the problem may solve itself with some time. Aside from the injury risk, and with the realization that is a rare talent, we could have a reasonable debate as to where is the best place for him to learn to get those major league outs.

  37. Coach on February 27th, 2005 8:15 pm

    Sorry, last sentence should read: …with the realization that HE is a rare talent…

  38. John on February 27th, 2005 8:29 pm

    Re (# 22) “You usually don’t use your fifth starter ’til the second or third week of the season anyway.”
    This is no longer the case. As was recently pointed out [See “Newnham on moving up Felix,” 1/30, comments # 25 & # 30], nowadays the majority of teams use their fifth starter in the game immediately following the game the fourth starter started, regardless of off-days.
    (Gone are the days of the brief call-ups: Luis DeLeon, Clint Zavaras, Pat Rice.)

  39. Rusty on February 28th, 2005 3:13 pm

    The interesting thing about this decision is that you have Hargrove seeing an immediate asset that he can put to use to win in 2005, and you have the front office seeing a long term asset that needs to be nurtured for maximum value in the years 2006-2011.

    The compromise decision is to wait til June to call him up which prevents this year from counting against his arbitration/free agency years.

  40. Evan on March 1st, 2005 10:24 am

    Felix’s 2005 PECOTA card lists the lowest Similarity score I have ever seen.


    For comparison, Moyer’s a 14 (he was 11 last year). Edgar was 11.