Fantasy Baseball: Indians’ Danny Salazar has ace potential in 2014


24-year-old Danny Salazar is a sleeper in Cleveland this year (Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

Last year, for the first time since 2007, the Cleveland Indians made it back to the postseason.  Well, technically, they made it just one game in, getting shutout by the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild-Card Play-In game.

Indians’ fans probably aren’t too excited about that result, but with an influx of young talent making their way into C-Town, things are looking up for The Tribe.

Pitching phenom Danny Salazar is one Cleveland Indians prospect who will have an impact on the 2014 season, and fantasy baseball owners should be keying in on him as potential “sleeper” in their upcoming drafts:

Danny Salazar, SP (current ADP: #159):

By pitching 52.0 innings for the Indians last year, Danny Salazar barely missed the cutoff to qualify as a rookie, but he’s shown flashes of greatness beyond his 24 years.

The young right-handed pitcher made his debut on July 11 vs. the hard-hitting Toronto Blue Jays, and boy was it a good one, pitching six innings of one-run ball, while allowing just two hits and striking out seven.  He would earn the win in his first-career start, but was victorious just once the rest of the season.

Salazar was somewhat a victim of poor run support in two of his three losses.  His offense managed just one cumulative run in his outings vs. the New York Mets and Minnesota Twins.

Despite finishing with a 2-3 record, Salazar’s ERA (3.12), WHIP (1.13), and K/BB ratio (4.33) were outstanding.  Had he played an entire season, his 11.25 K/9 would have placed him second overall in the Major Leagues.

Salazar is armed with a 96 mph fastball, a slider, and a nasty changeup/splitter that produced a swinging strike rate 22.4 percent of the time.

The Indians have moved Carlos Santana away from home plate, and sent him to the hot corner, allowing Yan Gomes to don the tools of ignorance.  Santana is not a very good catcher and Salazar will get a boost with Gomes behind the plate on a full-time basis.

Scouts have been drooling over Salazar since the 2007 Dominican Summer League, when he posted a 1.96 ERA and gave up just one HR over 64.1 IP, and fantasy baseball owners should be doing the same in 2014.

Salazar, who has already undergone one Tommy John surgery, could have an imposed inning cap (likely 175 IP), but he’ll be able to pitch until mid-September, allowing fantasy owners to reap the benefits for five-and-a-half months.

As of Saturday, Danny Salazar is the 159th player being drafted on average (13th round in 12-team leagues), but he has the potential to have a fantastic season and owners shouldn’t be scared to take a leap of faith with him.  While he’s the 37th starting pitcher coming off the board, there’s such tremendous upside to be had with him.  Bumping him up to the Kris Medlen/Shelby Miller range (#114-116) is a gamble, yet it’s those kinds of risks that win fantasy championships.

2014 Projections: 15-9, 3.21 ERA, 183 K, 1.11 WHIP, 181.0 IP

» Missed any of my earlier picks?  Please click here for links to all the sleepers I have covered from each team so far.

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