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Friends Santana, Feliz share Futures experience

Astros prospects participate in All-Star showcase as members of World Team

MINNEAPOLIS -- Domingo Santana was born in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Michael Feliz was born in Azua, a couple hours away. Despite the distance, they have become close.

"He's my friend," Feliz said of Santana.

"He's a great guy," Santana said of Feliz.

They found themselves back together again at Target Field on Sunday, representing the World Team in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. The U.S. Team won, 3-2.

In the past, they've been instructional league teammates. Someday they hope to be together with the Astros. They work out together at the club's complex during the offseason. On this day, however, it was an opportunity to measure themselves against some of the best young talent in the Minor Leagues.

Santana, a 21-year-old outfielder, is the more advanced of the two. He's rated as the Astros' seventh-best prospect by and is batting .299 with 13 homers, 54 RBIs and an .868 OPS for Triple-A Oklahoma City. He recently made his Major League debut before being sent back down.

He spent much of his childhood in St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands), moving there when he was in kindergarten. His father was signed by the Astros but went to St. Thomas after he was released because he had a sister there. After his first year of high school, Santana returned to the Dominican to begin working out at the Phillies' academy. He was one of four prospects traded to the Astros for Hunter Pence three years ago.

He appeared overmatched when called up, going 0-for-13 with 11 strikeouts. But the Astros have high hopes for him. And he enjoyed the experience, even though he struggled at the plate.

"That was very cool. It was awesome. Just a dream come true," he said.

Santana entered the game as a defensive replacement in right field and led off the bottom of the seventh by striking out. In the ninth, he grounded out to third.

Feliz, the club's No. 9 prospect, is the hardest thrower in Houston's farm system. His fastball touches the high 90s and he's struck out 69 in 57 2/3 innings for Class A Quad Cities this season. His slider has plus potential and his changeup gives him a third quality offering. He throws a lot of strikes, but may need to refine his delivery to truly command all of his pitches.

Though still raw, he demonstrates a good feel for pitching, winning the New York-Penn League ERA title (1.96) as a 19-year-old last season. He said he was looking forward to getting a chance to face hitters from a higher level.

"I think I can do it," he said. "I think I can play with those guys."

Feliz came in to pitch the bottom of the sixth inning after the World Team scored twice in the top of the inning to take the lead and allowed a two-run homer to designated hitter Joey Gallo. He also struck out two with a fastball that topped out at 96.

Shortstop J.P. Crawford led off by fighting off a fastball and blooping it into shallow left for a single. Kris Bryant struck out. Crawford easily stole second and then Gallo drilled his homer to right. Feliz ended the inning by whiffing Peter O'Brien and getting James Ramsey on a routine grounder to first.

If all goes well, he thinks he might be ready to make it all the way to the big leagues as early as next season. 

"I think I could have an opportunity, maybe next year. [The Astros] bring young men to the big leagues. They move players up," he said.

Santana thinks the organization has a bright future.

"We have a lot of great young players. The Houston Astros are going to be a very good team in a couple years," he said.

Santana and Feliz are two players the Astros believe can help them reach that goal.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for

Houston Astros