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Astros 40 in 40: Michael Feliz

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2015 was a big year for Michael Feliz, even if the prospect hype around him doesn't reflect it right now.

(Editor's Note: We are starting a news series profiling each player on the 40-man roster leading up to the season -- 40 men in 40 days. I admittedly got the idea for the series from Lookout Landing, SBNation's Mariners blog, I want to give them all the credit for the initial idea.)

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Currently, it's Francis Martes who has exploded, and is rightfully gaining recognition among the national prospect syndicate. But the Feliz train rolls on, and it's not a stretch to think he could reach the Majors, not to mention stick, sooner than Martes.

The train metaphor is an apt one, too, taking a look at the timeline of his season. He began the year in A-Advanced Lancaster, tossing 32.2 solid innings. His peripherals remained solid; a big strike out rate and passable walk rate led to a decent 3.84 FIP in the harsh environment. In late May, he earned a true cup of coffee with the Big League club, throwing a single inning of scoreless relief. Sent down to AA soon after, he scuffled in June, compiling a 4.42 ERA in 18.1 innings of work that month. The train was slowly grinding, trying to get underway.

That happened in July. Feliz allowed one run in five innings on the Fourth of July, and never looked back. During the following nine starts, he would allow just eight total earned runs, and ended up posting a 1.44 ERA during the final two months of the season. With command and control being an issue in the past, his 2.56 BB/9 during those months, along with a nice 8.31 K/9, was perhaps most encouraging. He was good enough that the Astros brought him back as a September call-up and allowed him to get his feet wet again, where he showcased his mid-90s heat and had some promising outings, despite getting knocked around a bit.

The Astros unsurprisingly decided to protect him by keeping him on the 40-man roster following the season, and he figures to start the year as a member of the Triple-A Fresno rotation. If he can get off to a quicker start in 2016 and continue to refine the command of his mid-90s heater, curveball, and change-up, he could be one of the first men called upon should the Astros need a replacement start in 2016. Bullpen time could also be in the cards for him, as he worked exclusively out of the pen during his short MLB stints in 2015.