Last season, the Cleveland Indians put on a show. While many expected an overall solid season from The Tribe, most agreed that they were at least a year away from returning to the playoffs. However, the Indians succeeded in proving those people wrong and pieced together their best season since 2007, finishing 90-72 and taking an American League Wild Card crown after winning their final 10 games. They owe a little of that success to right-handed pitcher Danny Salazar.
In the midst of that 10-game winning streak, Salazar toed the rubber for his tenth career MLB start and his last one of the 2013 regular season. The Dominican Republic native tossed six strong innings and yielded just two runs to earn his second big league victory, which pulled the Indians to within 4.5 games of the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central lead, one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the first Wild Card slot and one game ahead of the Texas Rangers for the second Wild Card berth. From there, the Indians went on to take the first Wild Card spot.
For the season, Salazar pitched 52 innings after his July call-up. While this does put him two innings past “official MLB Rookie” status, he’s still a very young arm with little major league experience. He finished his first MLB season 2-3 with an impressive 3.12 earned run average. In the 52 innings of work that he saw, he struck out a hefty 65 hitters on the season. He even added postseason experience when he started the Wild Card game against the Rays, but fell short of victory after surrendering three runs in four innings.
What the scouts are saying
The Indians selected Salazar as an amateur free agent in 2006, and injuries kept him from really putting together a solid effort towards making The Show. But it was after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010 that his arm came to life. The questions for him will be his consistency and his ability to remain healthy.
Salazar has a really good fastball, which according to Baseball Prospectus, is capable of touching 97 MPH. He adds a good slider and a changeup that has improved considerably over the last year. Like the writer for Baseball Prospectus, Alex Eisenberg with Baseball-Intellect describes Salazar as “an undersized but athletic pitcher.”
Given his deceptively small but powerful frame, he’s reminiscient in build of Tim Lincecum. They like his makeup mentally, and words like “solid,” “humble” and “confident” litter reports about him. With that kind of mental fortitude and the arm that he shows, he could be a top of the rotation starter for Cleveland in the coming years.
2014 Season Prediction
Given Salazar’s injury history, the Indians are likely going to play it safe with his arm. While he will get his chance to pitch in some big moments this season, it’s plausible that he could finish the year having pitched at or near 162 innings. But don’t be completely surprised if he finishes short of that total. If the innings he does pitch look anything like his 52 innings from 2013 though, Indians fans will like what they see.
Salazar looks like he will be the #3 starter in the Indians rotation following spring training. I foresee 25 starts for him in 2014 with 150 innings and a 3.25 ERA. A final win-loss record of 12-6 is something that would thrill the Indians and the city of Cleveland.