Every day you'll find a look back at the 2014 season for one of the Indians or their key prospects, as we sort out what happened and what it means for the franchise going forward.
- Position: Right-handed pitcher
- Age: 24
- Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent in 2006
- Contract status: Pre-arbitration for 2015 (~$500,000)
Salazar felt like a force of nature during his late-season stint with the Indians in 2013, culminating with the first two innings of the Wild Card Game, when he looked unbeatable. Things took a quick turn for the worse in the 3rd inning of that game, which serves as sort of a microcosm of Salazar's (still fairly brief) entire MLB career to date.
Last offseason many Tribe fans anointed Salazar as the team's new ace, and spoke of the many years of certain dominance that lay ahead of him. When spring training arrived though, the Indians held Salazar back a bit, and so he threw fewer innings than most of the other starters, and there was talk that he wouldn't be ready to join the rotation until late Apri. Instead, he was in the rotation right from the start, though it was still fair to say he didn't seem entirely ready.
Salazar allowed at least one home run in each of his first four starts, allowing a total of 16 earned runs in 18.1 innings, which is pretty ugly. He was walking a lot of batters, while also striking a ton of guys out. His second start was especially... something. He gave up 6 hits, including 2 home runs, he walked a pair, and he didn't survive the 4th inning. On the other hand, 10 of the 11 outs he recorded were strikeouts, making him the first pitcher in MLB history to accomplish such a thing.
Salazar pitched a good game in San Francisco near the end of April, but in his next couple outings were spotty, and on May 15 he again gave up a pair of home runs and didn't make it to the 5th inning. At that point he was sent down to Columbus to try and work some things out. His velocity was good, but his command was lacking, and his off-speed pitches were often being tattooed.
His numbers in Triple-A weren't very impressive. He gave up a home run in each of his first six starts there, and just as he put a lid on the long balls, he began walking a ton of guys. The Indians were getting desperate for starters though, and so Salazar was promoted again in late July. From that point on he made a dozen starts for the Tribe, posting a 3.50 ERA, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 4 to 1, and a respectable 5 home runs allowed in 69.1 innings. On September 3 he pitched his first MLB shutout, and did it with 9 strikeouts and 0 walks against the Tigers.
For the season his ERA was a mediocre 4.25, but his FIP was a solid 3.52. It wasn't the season we were hoping to see from him, but his numbers after the stint on the farm are encouraging.
2014 grade: C
Salazar looks the team's #3 starter right now, behind Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. If he can keep doing what he did in those final dozen starts, he'll be a very good #3. My guess is he's a little less productive than that, but better than his full season numbers were this year. I don't think he's going to be the world-beater many were predicting at this time a year ago, but I think we'll be very happy to have him.