When, at the presumed age of 23, Pedro Feliz had his first good professional season in AAA, it was easy to be skeptical. He didn't walk at all, and the Pacific Coast League is conducive to the occasional fluke power display. Still, he was given a shot to take over at third in the 2001 season, a season where even a mildly wretched offensive performance from a third baseman could have given the Giants a division title. It was too much to expect from Feliz at the time.
He spent the offseason having two birthdays, meaning he was actually 25 when he had his first professional success and 26 when he was flailing away in the big leagues. He followed the career AAA season up by looking like a kid right out of Sonoma State using wood bats for the first time, and he was much older than we thought. If that description were of a current player in the Giant system, here are the players I would protect on the 40-man roster over that player:
Edgardo Alfonzo (just to be safe)
Jon Coutlangus (as a hitter)
Stan Conte (wearing Nick Conte's jersey and a fake beard)
So, of course, he was useful in 2003. Over 235 at-bats, he had a slugging percentage of .515. His ghastly on-base percentage (.278) kept him from being a good player, but he was certainly useful. Okay, the cynics harumphed, do it again. And he did, but over 503 at-bats this time. His OBP climbed to over .300, and he was again a useful player. Not good, but useful.
Last year, he was stretching the definitions of the term "useful". He played a whole bunch of positions, and started out strong, but his second-half fade was devastating. But he did have some moments, and was, indeed, kind of useful. Some think he's about to take another leap in development at an age when most players are starting to decline. That seems ridiculous. But the whole point of the mini-Wiki entry on Pedro Feliz is to point out the odds he overcame to still be playing professional baseball, much less as a starting third-baseman in the majors. Feliz has surprised in a big way before, and I'm not putting anything past him. He's earned my respect just by hanging around and being three shades of useful.
I'm also not going to predict improvement, either. Feliz is a deeply flawed player, and that's not going to improve as he gets older. He'll still be useful, though....