2017 Projection: Could Danny Salazar Emerge As A Top 20 Starter?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There’s a lot of potential upside in the Indians’ Danny Salazar, especially with the likes of Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco drawing much of the attention.  While a 3.87 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in ’16 doesn’t necessarily elicit thoughts of a potential Top 20 starter, that’s the type of upside he brings to the table.


What Happened In ‘16
There were two obvious issues hanging over him:

  1. Control (4.13 BB/9)
  2. Injuries (137.1 IP)

The second issue probably helps to explain the atrocious second half, albeit an abbreviated one (32.2 innings), as he posted a 2.75 ERA over 104.2 innings in the first half.  Those poor numbers are also skewed by a .416 BABIP, with his .269 in the first half appearing to be more realistic (line drive rates of 18.7% and 17.1% over the past two seasons).

Before we even get into specifics, the upside is large.


Despite last season’s struggles Salazar owns a career 3.08 BB/9 (2.86 and 2.58 the previous two seasons).  With a 2.8 BB/9 over his minor league career (3.0 over 126.0 innings at Triple-A), there’s no question that he’s better than he showed last season.  Even if you don’t want to believe in his ’15 mark, an improvement should come.


Salazar showed elite strikeout stuff last season, posting a 10.55 K/9 courtesy of an 11.1% SwStr% (11.7% for his career).  His changeup is his signature strikeout pitch, with a 24.60% Whiff%, and there’s little reason to think that’s about to change.  The speed variation between his fourseam fastball (95.88 mph) and changeup (86.86 mph) is effective, and his 11.5 K/9 at Triple-A shows his upside.

Even if you want to argue that he’s not quite as good as he showed last season, Salazar had posted strikeout rates of 9.82 and 9.49 the previous two seasons.


Home Runs
There have been home run issues in the past, with a career 1.10 HR/9, and that’s something that needs to be watched closely.  While he did post a career best 47.8% groundball rate last season, that hasn’t been the norm throughout his career and there was no dramatic change in his approach that would’ve led to the spike.  If he proves that it’s real early we’ll buy in, but for now remain skeptical.


2017 Projection
180.0 IP, 14 W, 3.55 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 189 K (9.45 K/9), 70 BB (3.50 BB/9)


Obviously there’s a lot to like when it comes to Salazar, and the upside is there for him to post a Top 20 season (while we ranked him #33, he’s part of a tier that goes up to #26).  That said there are concerns about home runs, his control and a regression in his strikeout rate.  Would we want to invest in him?  Absolutely, but just do so with your eyes open and knowing the risks.


Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:

Standard League
OBP League
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

#21-40 |03/02/17
Relief Pitcher01/02/17--

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