With Opening Day quickly approaching and roster spots in dire need, I urge owners not to press the panic button on Danny Salazar following his demotion to Triple-A Friday afternoon.
As rosters begin to slim down, “mind-boggling” moves, for lack of a better word, tend to happen year after year involving a team’s rotations or starting lineups.
Regardless, though, that does not take away from a player’s skill set.
While the Cleveland Indians seem to have made a decision on their final rotation spot based on one poor start in spring training, albeit after a very disappointing 2014 season, they have already shown a tendency to act quickly.
With that said, having only Zach McAllister ahead of him, as well as relatively unknown T.J. House and the inconsistent Trevor Bauer, Salazar could be a couple poor starts away, by either of those guys, from an early season call up and reclaiming his rightful spot in the rotation.
What to Make of Danny Salazar’s Demotion
First, it is not like Bauer or House were lights out in spring. Bauer, while he has yet to issue a free pass this spring, has recorded a 5.87 ERA in 15 plus innings, and House has a 5.60 ERA, allowing 4 earned runs in back to back appearances. Beyond that, Salazar actually pitched quite well in his previous start (4 innings, 1 earned run, 5 strikeouts), prior to giving up 6 earned runs in 3.1 innings on Thursday. Perhaps the biggest negative about Salazar’s spring are his 5 walks in 11 innings.
What makes the decision somewhat “mind-boggling” though, and for that reason, one that I do not see sticking for very long: of the four starters mentioned, Salazar probably has the highest ceiling, though Bauer would certainly be a close second. House recorded a serviceable 5-3 record with a 3.35 ERA in 19 appearances (18 starts) last season. However, considering that was likely largely aided by a 1.9 BB/9 rate, over a walk and a half less than his career minor league mark, regression has to be expected. On the flip side, while McAllister had a fairly respectable minor league track record, his 4-7 record with a 5.23 ERA last season placed him in line for a rotation spot. Unfortunately for Salazar, though, McAllister has actually pitched the best of the four this spring (3.32 ERA in 19 innings).
For these reasons, I don’t see a reason to immediately drop Salazar, but that does not hold true for all players with a role suddenly changning. Obviously, with early season injuries to guys like Kenley Jansen, Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, etc., we do not always have the room to wait on a guy pitching in Triple-A. Rather, it merely depends on the role said player will play to open the season. I will be the first to admit, as soon as Cincinnati announced that Tony Cingrani would pitch out of the bullpen, I dropped him.
With the obvious rising number of injuries to pitchers, teams are even more dedicated towards ensuring a pitcher is thoroughly “stretched out” before having them start in a Major League game. Given that Cingrani will not be taking over for Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning, Cingrani is at least a month away from fantasy relevance, even once the team decides to put him in the rotation. In addition to that, if Cingrani can’t crack the rotation with Homer Bailey on the D.L. to start the season, as long as Cingrani is pitching well in the bullpen, they will likely have little reason to use him in the rotation at all in 2015.
Danny Salazar, however, does not have this concern with him continuing to start in Triple-A. Thus, if you were high on him two weeks ago, and have a spot available, he offers a much greater reward compared to the option of dropping him for journeymen type starters such as Jake Peavy, John Lackey, etc.
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