Scouting Indians Prospect Danny Salazar
I wrote this up in early July just before Danny Salazar was called up to make his big league debut. It’s a little late to publication, but that’s OK…
Given the lack of pitching prospects currently in the upper levels of Cleveland’s organization, the emergence of Salazar has been quite a blessing. He’s always had a great arm, but struggled to stay healthy. An arm that mostly pumped out low to mid 90s fastballs suddenly started pumping out fastballs in the mid – upper 90s after returning from Tommy John surgery in 2012.
His new-and-improved fastball has translated into a ton of missed bat this year. In fact, his numbers with Double-A Akron were pretty bonkers, striking out 51 batters in just 33 innings of work. He continued his dominance in Triple-A, though to a lesser extent.
An undersized, but athletic pitcher, Salazar’s fastball isn’t special because of its velocity. Its special because of the movement he generates at such a high velocity. The pitch has excellent running action and explosive late life. He’s generally around the strike zone with his fastball, though his command will need to improve. However, the combination of velocity and movement gives him more room for error.
Salazar has trouble keeping his fastball down in the zone in part because he lacks the leverage to do so due to his height. This is why he’s been a predominantly fly ball pitcher over his career.
In the start I saw him, he focused heavily on his breaking ball. It’s an inconsistent pitch with the size of the break varying, but he throws it at a high velocity. The pitch will range from anywhere fringy to average in quality, while flashing above average potential.
The change-up is the better of the two secondary pitches, ranging between above average and plus. He maintains his arm speed well, and the pitch has considerable fading action as it approaches home plate. At its best, the pitch just drops off the table.
While Salazar’s command can stand to improve, he’s never had much of a problem with his control. He’s generally around the strike zone.
It’s a possibility that Salazar will eventually move into a bullpen role because of concerns over his health. He’s never thrown more than a 107 innings in a season, and we don’t yet know how well his body will hold up with a full season’s work load.
However, given Cleveland’s lack of starting pitching prospects at the upper levels of the organization, I’m quite sure they will give Salazar every chance to succeed as a starter. Given his potential three-pitch mix, ability to throw strikes, ability to maintain his velocity deep into games, and a delivery that is pretty compact and repeatable, I think that’s easily the best choice. If he doesn’t succeed, he can always be moved back to the bullpen.