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Should the Astros pursue Danny Salazar

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With a new General Manager in place, there has been some activity on the Free Agent market after the Astros were linked to Hunter Pence. With that in mind, I figured we’d continue our potential bargain bin signing pitchers with Danny Salazar.

Who is Danny Salazar?

Salazar, 30, is a 6’0 right handed pitcher hailing from the Dominican Republic, signing in 2006. Here was what MinorLeagueBall had to say about him when he was their prospect of the day in 2013:

”Born January 11, 1990 in Santo Domingo, DR, Salazar isn’t a huge guy at 6-0, 190, but he has plenty of arm strength, clocked as high as 100 MPH and working regularly in the mid-90s. He’s always had good velocity, but he came back stronger after surgery. He has a very good changeup, but the real key has been improvement of his breaking ball. This was poor early in his career (reflected in his weak strikeout rates in A-ball), but he’s made great strides with it over the last year. It is variously described as a slider or power curve, but it is effective when he’s on, and he’s usually been on in ‘13.”

MLB Performance

Salazar has a 38-34 record with a 3.82 ERA, racking up 10.7 WAR across 5 years in the league across a total of 591.1 Innings. With a 10.47 K/9, Salazar has been able to dominate from a strike-out perspective, though his upside was somewhat limited by a 3.29 BB/9.

Salazar earned All-Star honors in 2016, and has performed well in his limited Play-off experience. During his first exposure, Salazar earned a loss after a 3 run across 4 IP performance against the Rays in 2013 (at age 23). His next 3 playoff appearances have been in relief with 4.2 scoreless innings striking out 7 along the way.

Arsenal

Since there was very little meaningful data in 2018/2019, we’ll take a look at what his arsenal looked like in 2017.

Over the past few years, Salazar’s pitch usage trended to a reduction in 4-seam fastballs with a continually increasing Sinker usage (with his change up inching up each year as well).

The Astros would likely look to reverse this trend, and likely abandon the sinker all together as it trends as having the worst xwOBA of any of his pitches.

Interestingly, Salazar does possess above average velocity on his 4-Seam fastball with above average spin, providing a strong case for the high “rising” fastball. He pairs it with a Change-up that is without a doubt his best pitch. His other breaking pitches do not have the elite spin rates to make him an ideal candidate for Strom, but he does look to have significant potential with the Strom Magic Method.

Health

The biggest question mark that has plagued Salazar since day 1, is his health. After missing the entire 2018 season due to shoulder surgery, Salazar played just one game in 2019 before returning to the disabled list with a groin injury, effectively ending his return.

Conclusion

Salazar is an interesting candidate as his numbers indicate a ton of potential even if Salazar can simply return to his pre-injury form. The advanced metrics all view Salazar favorably with his 3.45 xFIP and 3.45 SIERA actually indicating some poor luck on his career 3.82 ERA. From a “Strom Magic Method”, eliminating the slider and utilizing a different pitch strategy should provide a potential for a boost as well.

There of course could be some ill will held between the Salazar and the Astros given the recent events and Salazar being a member of the Indians throughout the events.

From a cost perspective, you would have to think that Salazar would be signed to an incentive laden deal if not a low-rate single year contract to rebuild his value. Overall, the risk is fairly minimal even with the challenges we face with attempting to stay under the second luxury tax threshold.

Whether the Astros should pursue it boils down to one thing: Health. If the Astros can do a thorough physical and get any level of comfort with regards to his health, Salazar has the potential to be a “lightning in a bottle” type of signing.

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Author:

Brian Cohn

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