Facts & Info: The Indians signed Salazar as a 16-year old shortstop out of the Dominican Republic in July of 2006. He was quickly moved to the mound and moved through the system swiftly before he suffered a right elbow sprain in late May of 2010 that eventually led to Tommy John surgery in August of 2010 and miss most of the 2011 season.
The Stuff: Salazar has a smaller frame for a pitcher, but as a converted shortstop he has tons of athleticism and lots of arm strength. He has a lot of confidence in his plus fastball and he commands it well down in the zone with some good, late movement. Since his Tommy John surgery he has seen a spike in his velocity where it used to touch 89-92 MPH and touch 94 MPH to where it now comfortably sits at 93-96 MPH and touches 99 MPH. His best secondary offering is a plus changeup that is a very good Major League offering as he shows a good feel for it and it has good tumbling action. He also throws a slider that is inconsistent but flashes the potential to be an average offering with some late, hard bite that is tough on hitters when he is on with it.
The Delivery: Salazar and the Indians have really put a lot of work into his delivery over the years to get him more consistent with his arm slot and his stride direction, and the work has helped him to have near flawless arm action, add some deception to his delivery, and improve the command of his pitches. With all of the athleticism he has he really fields his position well and is able to make adjustments much quicker than the average pitcher.
The Intangibles: Salazar displays very good composure on the mound in tough situations, and is just a high character person who also speaks good English.
The Focus: The Indians were very careful with Salazar’s use last season since he was coming back from Tommy John surgery, and they have maintained that careful approach this season to monitor his workload and limit him to no more than 85 pitches an outing. Beyond health concerns, it comes down to him polishing off his delivery and the command of all of his pitches. He needs to refine his fastball command as some nights he just doesn’t have it which is when he gets in trouble, and he needs to work on the consistency and effectiveness of his slider and command it a little better as it is a must need for him to remain a starter.
The Crystal Ball: After missing essentially all of the 2011 season after Tommy John surgery the previous year, Salazar has come back strong and established himself as one of the Indians top starting pitching prospects. He really exploded on the scene last August when the Indians promoted him to Double-A Akron and took the kid gloves off allowing him to go six to seven innings the final month of the season. The Indians feel that Salazar is very much a starting pitching option for them in the near future and could be a solid number three starter, though it is also possible he could end up in the bullpen if he struggles with developing the consistency of his slider and durability issues continue to crop up.