Rangers Closer Neftali Feliz Wins Rookie of The Year

-Nick Parson, Front Office Assistant 

Despite falling short of their first World Series title, the Texas Rangers, MLB affiliate of the Hickory Crawdads, have a long list of things to be proud of now that the 2010 season has drawn to an end. Adding to that list is the young closer Neftali Feliz, who has earned himself the American League Rookie of The Year Award for 2010.

With the award, Feliz has put an end to the longest drought in the American League for a Rookie of The Year. Prior to this season,  a Rangers rookie had not won since Mike Hargrove in 1974.

Feliz, who was just 21 years of age when he broke camp with the Rangers last spring, put up intimidating numbers to say the least. In addition to his Rookie of the Year honors, Feliz earned a trip to this year’s MLB All Star Game, and set a new record for saves by a rookie with 40 to his credit.

Although Feliz did not come up through the Rangers system, he serves as yet another reminder of the value that the Rangers place on young talent. Feliz was signed by the Atlanta Braves in 2005 and was acquired by Texas in the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta in 2007. Having made his major league debut as a September call-up in 2009, Feliz got his first opportunity as a closer for Texas after Frank Francisco began the 2010 campaign with two blown saves. From that point on, sitting batters down in the 9th inning became a habit for Neftali Feliz.

Although postseason appearances are not considered in awards voting, Feliz had a successful playoff run as he retired the Yankees in order in Game 6 of the ALCS to send Texas to their first World Series appearance in franchise history.

As for what this award means for next season, Feliz will have the same challenge that every Rookie of the Year faces in proving himself as more than just a fluke with beginner’s luck. The one thing that Feliz has already proven though is that he not only has the potential to be a dominant closer, he has the potential to be one of the best in the game.

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