Dedicated readers who memorize everything I write on this site (hi mom!) could remember that I was very critical of the Indians adding Danny Salazar to the 40-man roster in preparation for the 40-man Rule 5 Draft a year ago. At the time I was perplexed by the decision since Salazar just missed a large chunk of the 2010 and 2011 seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. But don’t confuse that as criticism of Salazar’s ability, because if the surgery did anything, it made him better.
At only 6’0″ Salazar doesn’t have the height of an ideal starting pitcher, but the velocity he can maintain on his fastball definitely makes up for his shortcomings. While before surgery Salazar was sitting in the low-90s, his fastball can now comfortably sit between 94-96 mph and he’s touched it up to as high as 99 at times. Salazar credits the velocity increase to his rehab as he was determined to get back on the mound.
Once he did return, Salazar has been electric, as he held a 2.36 ERA between High-A and Double-A in 2012. He also shows great command of his pitches (career 2.7 BB/9) and with the added velocity, he’s seeing a lot more swings and misses. For his career Salazar’s K/9 is 6.9, though number is bloated by his striking out just short of a batter an inning at High-A last year.
ESPN’s Keith Law listed Salazar as his sleeper for the Indians’ farm system on his 2013 top prospect list, even saying said that he could crack next year’s edition of his list if Salazar maintains his velocity. But being a pitcher is more than just how hard you throw. Salazar needs to stay healthy over the next two years to get his shot in Cleveland. With a lack of alternative options with upside like Salazar’s, a rotation spot could be his when he’s deemed ready.
Despite the great fastball, Salazar is not a front-of-the-rotation guy. He’s still too small to get the downward plane on his fastball scouts love, and his secondary offerings grade out as only average. But if he stays healthy and maintains the speed on his fastball, he could bring much needed help to a desperate Tribe rotation sometime in 2014.
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