With the most recent demotion of Carlos Carrasco, the Cleveland Indians are turning to the future for today’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. No, Trevor Bauer is not making another start. Rather, the Indians will call upon the lesser known Danny Salazar to make the spot start.
On the year so far, Salazar has split time between both Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. As it stands, he has a record of 5-5 with a 3.09 ERA and struck out 100 batters in 17 starts spanning over 76 innings of work. As one would expect, Salazar’s numbers were better in Akron than they were in Columbus, but not so lopsided that they cause concern. There have been changes in his walk and strike out rates, ERA, WHIP, etc. but this should be expected as he learns new, more developed hitters.
Salazar is one of the more highly rated pitching prospects within the Indians farm system. There are varying reports about just where he stands in the pecking order, but according to Wahoo’s on First’s prospect guru, Geordy Boveroux, Salazar is the 11th best prospect within the Tribe’s farm system and the third best pitching prospect behind the aforementioned Bauer and Mitch Brown.
In his most recent prospect series, Geordy had the following to say about Salazar:
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.
So what do we know?
Well, first off, Salazar has a great fastball, but is still very much a work in progress. You could say the same about a lot of young pitching prospects throughout baseball. Many have relied on simply being able to throw fastballs past less talented hitters throughout their development and thus lack the kind of secondary pitches you see from more seasoned pitchers. In the big leagues it rarely matters how fast you can throw. If it’s straight, it’s going to get hit hard and far. Movement is the key.
Second, expect mistakes. You never know what to expect from a pitcher making his big league debut. There are so many additional variables at play that it’s far from a normal start. The question is whether or not a young pitcher is able to put these distractions behind him and focus on the task at hand. That is the great unknown here. We won’t know how Salazar responds to the pressure until he takes the mound and starts working his way through the Blue Jays’ lineup.
Lastly, Salazar will need to pound the zone and avoid putting himself in dangerous situations. That has been Bauer’s issue this year in the majority of big league starts he has made. His inability to locate his fastball resulted in numerous run scoring opportunities for opposing teams. However, Bauer’s saving grace is an arsenal of above average secondary pitches. Salazar doesn’t have that to fall back on. If he is unable to locate his fastball, it could become a very long day for Salazar.
In the end, today’s game is only one start in the grand scheme of things. Salazar is not a long-term solution in 2013. As Geordy mentioned earlier this year, the timetable for Salazar to join the rotation is sometime in 2014. There is also the possibility that today’s start will serve as an open audition for the Cubs, Brewers, or any other team the Tribe may be speaking to about potential trades. Bauer is off the table so Salazar, the next closet ready pitcher in the Indians system, is likely a potential piece in any trade they might make.