When the Cleveland Indians entered the 2013 season, not many so-called experts believed this team would be able to reach the MLB playoffs. Now, the question will be can Cleveland duplicate their success from a year ago when the team enters Spring Training in 2014.
One of the keys to the team’s Wild Card run last season, Danny Salazar was a late call-up in July and made an immediate impact on the mound for the Indians. In only 10 starts, he posted a decent 2-3 record, but his record doesn’t do him any sort of justice. Salazar dominated opponents on the mound, as evidenced by his 3.12 ERA and 65 strikeouts in only 52 innings of work in his first season.
In his first game alone, he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays and you could really tell that this guy was going to be special for not only this year, but for many years to come with the Indians. He’s only 24-years old and commands a fastball that can top out at 98 mph, to go along with a solid changeup and an even better slider to keep batters on their toes.
His sample size in the MLB may be small, but to give you an indication of just how strong this guy can be, look no further than his performance against Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers. Against Cabrera, who is arguably the best hitter in the game, Salazar struck him out three times in a row before Cabrera welcomed him to the big leagues with a homer in his fourth plate appearance.
Cabrera may have gotten the best of him in the end, but any time you strike out the best hitter in baseball three times, this says something.
Cleveland believes in him so much that the front office decided to not re-sign their ace Jimenez after a great season. The Indians think Salazar could potentially climb up to the no. 2 spot in the rotation behind Masterson if he shows enough progress during the offseason. However, he’ll likely be in the no. 3 spot on the staff after Zach McAllister, who had a nice season of his own in 2013.
Either way, I expect Salazar to have a breakout season on the mound with Cleveland in his 2014 campaign. He has way too much potential and a rocket fastball that should blow opponents away.