Danny Salazar Still Has Reasons For Hope After Demotion

Heading into 2014, Cleveland Indians fans were excited about Danny Salazar. After all, he was a 23-year-old lefty who was coming off a dominant 2013 season in which he posted a 2.71 ERA, 12.5 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 93.0 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. In 52.0 big-league innings, he had a 3.12 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 2.72 SIERA, 11.25 K/9 and 2.60 BB/9.

Salazar’s 2014 season, however, was disappointment, at least on the surface. His 4.25 ERA in 111.0 big-league innings was not quite what the Indians expected, and he also had a fairly-disappointing 3.71 ERA in 60.2 Triple-A innings. The Indians were hoping he could come into the season, lead their rotation and never look back at the minor leagues, but he did not do so.

This spring, Salazar has struggled mightily, throwing to an 8.18 ERA over 11.0 innings while walking 4.1 batters per nine innings, though he has still managed a great 12.3 K/9. Due to that, the Indians decided to demote him to Triple-A even though he was expected to win a job in the rotation.

After his, at least relatively, disappointing 2014 and his obvious spring training issues, many Indians fans might be wondering where Salazar’s career will go next. Well, there are at least a few reasons to remain optimistic about him.

Salazar’s 2014 season was actually not quite as disappointing as one might think. ERA estimators such as his 3.52 FIP, 3.45 xFIP and 3.33 SIERA all say he was really a much better pitcher than his ERA indicated. He also maintained solid peripherals with a 9.82 K/9 and a 2.86 BB/9. A .343 BABIP against hurt him, and while we cannot say that is 100 percent due to luck, it would not be surprising to see that number regress towards the mean moving forward. This would instantly boost Salazar’s stats.

As just a 25-year-old, Salazar already has a strong track record. He has a career FIP of 3.41, xFIP of 3.22 and SIERA of 3.13 with a 10.28 K/9 and 2.78 BB/9. Clearly, there is talent there, and it has already shown up at the big-league level.

Of course, his poor spring training stats and subsequent demotion are hardly reasons to be excited. That said, Salazar has been known for slow starts, and he had a 5.12 ERA through his first nine outings last year. While slow starts are certainly an issue, Salazar found a way to work out of it in 2014, throwing to a 3.50 ERA over his last 12 starts. The Indians will hope he can similarly work out of it this year, and taking pressure off of him by sending him to Triple-A might be their way of trying to accelerate him working out of his early-season slumps.

Salazar’s career might not look quite as promising as it did a year ago, but do not write him off by any means. While there are certainly some flaws to work out, he has a track record of success in the majors at a young age. If he can put everything together this season, then he could soon go from not even making the team out of spring training to one of their most valuable starters in short order.

Statistical information obtained from Fangraphs.

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