Is There Any Hope Left for Danny Salazar?
After a sensational 2013 season, Danny Salazar was projected to the Cleveland Indians' ace. In just 10 starts in 2013, he had a 3.12 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 2.75 xFIP, and an astounding 11.25 strikeouts per nine (K/9). Salazar was striking out 30.8 percent of the batters he faced with a fastball over 95 miles per hour.
But my how things have changed. Salazar's 2014 got off to a rough start, as he began the season with a 5.53 ERA, 4.72 FIP and 3.83 xFIP and was sent down to the minors shortly thereafter. While his strikeouts were high -- 10.40 K/9 -- Salazar was giving up way too many hits (a .295 opponent batting average) and walks (3.76 walks per nine).
Salazar was then called up in mid-July, and while he showed up a few glimpses, he was very inconsistent. In 69.1 innings pitched (12 starts), he posted a 3.50 ERA, 2.83 FIP and 3.25 xFIP with 9.48 K/9 and 2.34 BB/9.
During that 12-start stretch, batters hit .252 against Salazar, down from .295 earlier in the season, yet inconsistencies still shined through for the young pitcher. He had five games where he allowed three or more earned runs, and six where he walked two or more batters.
The same problems that had plagued him earlier in the season were still hurting him, though he had improved slightly. His first-pitch strike percentage was up from 57.1 percent to 59.7 percent, but still below his 2013 average of 67.3 percent.
Further, his fastball velocity was still down from 96.2 mph in 2013 -- at 95.1 mph -- albeit higher than earlier in the season, where it was 93.7 mph.
Heading into Spring Training this year, the Indians were hoping Salazar had figured things out, and if not, would figure them out in spring training so he could start the season in the Major League rotation. But Salazar was again wild in spring training, with an 8.18 ERA, 1.73 WHIP and a .305 opponent batting average.
He still hadn't figured himself out, and the Indians were forced to start the season with him in Triple AAA.
The righty made his first start of the season in Triple AAA, going 6.0 innings, allowing 4 hits, striking out 7 and really pounding the strike zone.
Apparently, Danny Salazar saw ZMac's start today. His line for Columbus tonight: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K. 80 pitches, 57 strikes.— Tony Lastoria (@TonyIBI) April 11, 2015
If the Indians call up Salazar soon, ZiPS projects have him starting 28 games this season, with a 3.81 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 10.21 K/9, 3.00 BB/9 and a 2.7 fWAR. This would be an improvement upon last season, but still nowhere near his 2013 form. Our projections aren't as optimistic, as they see him finishing with a 4.15 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.
If he can meet the ZiPS projections or even improve on his performance from the second half of last season, Salazar could soon return to his 2013 form, something the Indians could definitely use. Or, at the very minimum, Salazar could be a serviceable starter the rest of the way, when he gets called up, for the Indians and your fantasy team.