Yesterday morning, I posted my Top 100+ SP for 2014. One of our readers, ‘Bbboston’ wanted me to delve into Danny Salazar a bit more…after all, he did wind up at #19 overall in the list. Bbboston touched on a few concerns often linked to rookies…what will their second go-round be in the majors…will he have an IP limitation and will hitters catch up to him in-game and in-season.
Let’s start on that last note. Will hitters catch-up to him? Let’s take a look at his repertoire:
From a fastball velocity perspective (minimum 200 pitches), let’s just say it will be difficult. According to Baseball Prospectus’ Pitch f/x leaderboard, Danny Salazar winds up 3rd on the list for fastball velocity after Gerrit Cole, and gloriously, he wound up #3 on the list (prior to Yu Darvish) for fastball whiff/swing rate.
His slider (had to set filter to minimum of 100 pitches) was relatively almost as devastating from a velocity perspective (12th best) while his slider whiff/swing rate was still above average.
He rarely mixed in a sinker (meaning he does have a 4-pitch arsenal), but he’s got an effective splitter that sits about 11 MPH off his FS fastball which is good speed differential. Again, the pitch landed well above average (5th best velocity and 16th best Whiff/Swing rate).
A Matt Harvey comp?! Looking at their BIP mix:
Matt Harvey is still better (if he was healthy) because he mixes in a changeup and curve extremely effectively, but Salazar’s high fastball game-plan at times reminds me of Harvey. The other reason Harvey was absolutely dominating beyond his command, was his balls in play mix. Salazar is dominating, but if he takes a step forward in the ball in play mix department like Harvey did, he’ll be on a Harvey-domination level. Check out this matrix:
Is there a chance Salazar could take a tremendous leap forward from a GB% perspective? I think so. According to the same Pitch f/x leaderboard, Salazar’s splitter had the BEST GB/FB ratio in the bigs last year = 18.00 value (just remember the small sample size). 2nd was Iwakuma’s splitter and that value was less than half at 7.06. Harvey’s groundball on his changeup was only a (still elite) 5.38 GB/FB ratio. Harvey had a better GB/FB rate on his Fastball, but as Salazar can develop more control, that rate should regress positively for him.
Based on the matrix, we can see that Salazar was more dominating than Harvey in their first go-rounds at the same age, and he has more of a chance than Harvey did to regress in the HR/FB and BABIP departments, meaning we could potentially see a surface ERA that approaches sub-3.00.
2014 Recommendation & Projection:
…I like Salazar a boatload. As you can see in our rankings, I have him in the Top 20 2014 SP’s. Young dominating phenoms are coming up and providing value from the get-go for fantasy purposes. His 30% k-rate last year in the majors came with an extremely small sample size, but his k% jumped well beyond 30 in AA and AAA last year. Steamer and Oliver also like Salazar’s K-rate to be in the mid 20′s, and I’m in the middle of them as it relates to his BB% so we’re all pretty confident his command (K/BB) winds up between 3.05 and 3.33. I am the most optimistic on this ratio. I have him at a projected 3.46.
You can find his full projections (command, balls in play mix, etc.) in our embedded Top 100 SP rankings, but here’s his 2014 5×5 projection: 12 Wins – 3.39 ERA – 1.19 WHIP – 181 K
From an IP-limitation (in game and for the season), I didn’t limit him too much in my projection at all actually…28 starts and 5.92 IP per start (165+ IP)…this is probably optimistic, but steamer is slightly more optimistic in that he’s got Salazar at 28 starts and 173 IP. I’m comfortable with this expectation as long as he stays healthy…Cleveland should be in the race again.