Breakout or Bust: Can Danny Salazar Emerge As A Must Use Option In ’14?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Few people knew who Danny Salazar was prior to 2013, but he certainly made a major impact first in the minors (2.71 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 12.48 K/9 over 93.0 innings) and maintaining that success in the Majors:

2 Wins
52.0 Innings
3.12 ERA
1.13 WHIP
65 Strikeouts (11.25 K/9)
15 Walks (2.60 BB/9)
.298 BABIP
83.3% Strand Rate

Right on the surface there are some obvious concerns, most notably in his strand rate and elevated line drive rate (25.8%). Over the past three seasons in the minors he owns a 20.7% mark, but it’s hard to get a read on it because there is no sample size large enough to draw a conclusion from.

That’s a major issue with Salazar, as the Indians handled him with kid gloves in 2013. It’s great that he had electric strikeout stuff, but can he do it when expected to work deep into games? Just look at his average length of appearance by level last season:

  • Double-A – 4.7 IP
  • Triple-A – 4.2 IP
  • Majors – 5.2 IP

Forget about the fact that wins are nearly impossible to come by, we have no clue whether Salazar can carry his stuff deep into games. Will he tire in the fifth or sixth inning? Will he be able to generate as many strikeouts when he knows he could be asked to go seven innings, as opposed to four or five? The concern is valid, and it does cast a shadow of doubt over him.

Obviously an average fastball of 96.2 mph and a SwStr% of 14.6% (Major League average was 9.3%) help. Still, his able to work deep into games has got to be considered a concern. Part of the restriction has been due to Tommy John surgery in 2011, but that’s now two years in the rearview mirror. It’s time to see if he’s better suited for the bullpen, or if he can utilize his stuff over the course of a full game.

John Sickels’ of Minor League Ball (click here for his post) gave the following scouting report of his stuff:

“Born January 11, 1990 in Santo Domingo, DR, Salazar isn’t a huge guy at 6-0, 190, but he has plenty of arm strength, clocked as high as 100 MPH and working regularly in the mid-90s. He’s always had good velocity, but he came back stronger after surgery. He has a very good changeup, but the real key has been improvement of his breaking ball. This was poor early in his career (reflected in his weak strikeout rates in A-ball), but he’s made great strides with it over the last year. It is variously described as a slider or power curve, but it is effective when he’s on, and he’s usually been on in ’13.”

If he can maintain the stuff throughout a game and continue to improve his breaking stuff, he could be a real asset for both the Indians and fantasy owners. Hopefully the Indians take off the kiddie gloves and we find out. He’s worth the risk as a mid-to-back end option, but don’t ignore the risks.

Sources – Fangraphs, Minor League Central, Minor League Ball

2014 Rankings: Top 15 Second Basemen
2014 Bullpen Breakdown: Minnesota Twins

3 comments

  1. Bbboston says:

    Rotoprof:

    With his k/9, SIERRA, controll,etc, if you had to place a probability % that he becomes an ACE, what would it be? (His metrics seem to be at darvish, scherzer levels, so this seems to be a gamble that any person in a keeper league has to make?)

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Is he worth the gamble? Absolutely. Do I think he will be the next Darvish/Scherzer? No, I don’t at this point.

      Those are awfully lofty expectations to put on any pitcher and the unknown of being able to work deep into games has got to be a major concern (as does the line drive rate). Plus,mlets not underestimate the alk that he could be better suited for the bullpen. If I had to make a prediction, I’d say he’s more of a SP3 with SP2 potential, but who knows.

      Unless he’s going to be able to work 7 innings a night, he’s never even going to get to that point.

  2. Jb says:

    He did have one game where he threw 100 pitches. It was the infamous game where he struck out Miguel Cabrera 3 times but Cabrera got the last laugh home ring in the 8th on a 96 mph fastball. So, it seems tome he is able to maintain velo late in games although 96 was 3 mph slower than the 99 he threw to the 2 previous batters in that game. The shorter innings at the MLB level was strictly because he came up late in the year and they were trying to manage his innings. I like him a lot and have him on my fantasy league team. That being said, his biggest red flag in my opinion is his HR rate. Given his stuff, 7 HR in 52 innings is alarming. He may have good control but he needs better command with his fastball command. If his fastball command improves and he turns out to be durable, the sky is the limit to his ceiling. I will be watching reports in spring to see if he has improved in this area. I think you can draft him this year in the 140-150 overall range as a boom or bust player. If he pitchs whole year, I see him as a guy with a 3.5 era in 160 innings with around 195 ks and a 1.14 whip. My wag on probability of this line happening is 60%

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