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Indians’ Young Righty Danny Salazar Flies Under The Radar

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CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 8: Danny Salazar #31 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the New York Mets during the second inning of their game on September 8, 2013 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The Mets defeated the Indians 2-1.

Danny Salazar (Photo Credit: David Maxwell/Getty Images)

By Rich Arleo

CBS Local Sports, in our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.

Danny Salazar, Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Indians

2013 season (minors): 21 G, 93 IP, 2.71 ERA, 1.022 WHIP, 2 W, 129 SO, 24 BB

2013 season (majors): 10 G, 52 IP, 3.12 ERA, 1.135 WHIP, 2 W, 65 SO, 15 BB

There has never been much hype surrounding Danny Salazar, but that’s never seemed to matter to him.

When the Indians first brought the right-hander in for a tryout as a 16-year-old, he was a bit of an afterthought. Much of the talk that year surrounded big-name pitching prospect David Huff, whom the Indians drafted in the first round. He was supposed to be the ace of the future, not the 16-year-old kid who hadn’t even joined their system yet.

The Indians did in fact sign Salazar, and he immediately impressed in rookie ball, posting a 1.96 ERA and 0.995 WHIP in 14 games. The success continued until he hit got to Single-A. In 2009 Salazar was hit around a bit and finished the year with a 1.454 WHIP in 20 starts. He managed just seven starts in 2010 before getting hurt and eventually undergoing Tommy John Surgery. Salazar recovered nicely from what can be an enormous hurdle for pitchers and returned near the end of 2011 to pitch well in eight games.

From then on, he never looked back. Salazar quietly dominated the minor leagues, boasting a 2.36 ERA and 1.118 WHIP the next season between High-A and Double-A with 76 strikeouts in 87.2 innings. Continuing to fly under the radar, Salazar stepped up to Triple-A in 2013 where his success continued. He struck out a whopping 129 batters in just 93 innings (12.5 K/9) with a 1.022 WHIP and 2.71 ERA on his way to the majors.

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The Indians called up Salazar last July for a spot start. He was impressive, allowing one earned run while striking out seven in six innings, but was sent back down afterwards. The Indians brought him back in August, and this time he stuck. With very little fanfare, Salazar showed great control – as he had in the minors – walking just 15 while striking out 65 in just 52 innings.

The 24-year-old righty features an imposing fastball that comes at hitters around 95 miles per hour, along with a changeup that sits in the mid-80s. Add an effective slider and the combination becomes even more deadly.

With great command of his arsenal, Salazar showed he could keep major league bats off balance last year. He looks to do so again in 2014, this time as the Indians’ projected No. 3 starter out of spring training. He could conceivably drop to No. 5 by opening day, as the team is bringing him along a little more slowly than the other pitchers. It’s not an injury issue, so much as a desire to conserve innings.

But once he’s up to speed, watch out. This might finally be the year the league takes notice.

Next up: Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

Check out our Fantasy Baseball Preview, breaking down the top players at each position.

Rich Arleo is a Marist College alum who has been a professional writer and editor since graduating in 2010. Find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for more of his sports musings.

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