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IBI Inbox: Salazar could be frontrunner for Rookie of Year in '14

IBI Inbox: Salazar could be frontrunner for Rookie of Year in '14
September 9, 2013
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It is time for another IBI Inbox to talk about some of the questions from the minors to the big leagues that Indians fans have asked of late. The Indians are set to begin a key three game series tonight with the visiting Royals and will actually play them six times in their next ten games. These next few days will be big in helping iron out the wildcard chase as while the Indians-Royals play the Yankees play the Orioles and the Red Sox play the Rays.

If you have a question on anything pertaining to the Cleveland Indians from the minors to the big leagues that you would like answered in a future inbox, feel free to contact me. I also pull from questions in the comments sections in articles, and also from Twitter, so you can post your questions there as well.

To the IBI Inbox we go.....

Richard B. wrote: Say, I got a question about Danny Salazar.  Would he be eligible for the Rookie of the Year category if he wins a spot on the regular rotation next season? Or does his innings pitched and/or time on the roster this year nullify him from being classified as a rookie for next season?

Me: If Salazar finishes with fewer than 50 innings pitched in the big leagues and also under 45 days of service time during 25-player limit period (April to Sept 1), he will be eligible for ROY next season. He is at 37.0 innings at the moment and he could still make as many as three or four starts, so it will be close.  He will fall short of the 45 days of service time requirement as he has I believe 26 days of service during the April to September 1st eligibility period.

There is no doubt that Salazar is a core member of the team moving forward, although he will probably be limited a little next season too where he can't go more than about 165-180 innings.  That said, if he finishes with less than 50.0 innings this season you can bet he will be an early favorite for AL Rookie of the Year next season.

Willie H. wrote: What are your early impressions of the 2013 draft class and which players/pitchers do you think will progress toward Cleveland the quickest?

Me: It is hard to get a true feel of this draft class as I have not seen a lot of the meat from it yet. I have yet to see Clint Frazier or Adam Plutko, and I haven't seen Dace Kime or Kyle Crockett pitch – though expect to see most of these guys in a few weeks when I go out to Arizona for Instructional League and the Arizona Fall League (which Crockett might pitch in).  That said, the reports on those guys are encouraging.

I think what I am impressed with at the moment is some of the good performances by less familiar names and lower round picks like Trevor FrankSean Brady, Kenny Mathews, Matt Whitehouse and Cole Sulser. The command and control is what I have liked from all of those guys as there are some disgustingly low walk rates and ridiculous K:BB ratios. That's a good thing, though of course it is hard to say how much you can get out of any stats from short season ball. But I am intrigued nonetheless.

On the bat side of things, Frazier obviously is a stud and had a very good introduction to pro ball this year in the Arizona League. James Roberts has a chance to be a solid second level player, maybe a utility guy at the major league level. Silento Sayles is a speed demon but I am unsure he will hit enough, and Grant Fink had an interesting pro debut. And that's probably it with the bats. This draft clearly has all of the big upside with the arms - save for Frazier. Obviously some others will surprise and many will disappoint over time, but I think this season was one of the better seasons from a statistical standpoint for new Indians draft picks in quite some time. Raw stats in the minors typically don’t mean a lot, but in this case, hopefully they buck the trend and actually do prove to be a harbinger of good things to come for these players.

Rich S. wrote: Hector Rondon and T.J. McFarland were picked up in the Rule 5 draft by the Cubs and Orioles, respectively.  Where would they have ranked in your prospect book this year if they had remained in the Indians farm system?  Do you believe they would have pitched in Cleveland this year?  Was it a mistake in hindsight for the Indians to leave them unprotected?

Me: Both players stuck in the big leagues all year and are officially gone from the Indians.  Both would not have been in my Top 40, but both would have probably been in my 41-50 range.

I think McFarland would have had an outside shot to pitch in Cleveland this year, but considering he would have been a starter I think they might have handled him the same way they did with House and just left him in that role and not called him up as a pen arm. He is athletic and is very durable, and has a nice sinker that he gets a good amount of groundballs with.  The Indians had some lefty issues over the course of the season, so it is possible they would have given him a shot to pitch in lefty relief in Cleveland, but I just go back to how they handled House and even Matt Packer where they left them as starters and did not attempt to use them in relief… that is why I think he would not have been given a chance to pitch in relief in Cleveland this year.

Sometimes a player has to be in the right place at the right time and that is how it worked out for McFarland. I’m glad he got his much deserved major league opportunity and he has a chance to stick around in his role for some time. The stuff is average, so he will probably continue to be a long or middle reliever who occasional serves as a spot starter – and maybe he even gets an opportunity to be the fifth starter at some point. He might see himself up and down between the minors and big leagues the next few years since the Orioles now have full control of him and he has three option years remaining.

As for Rondon, he probably would have been given a shot ahead of Matt Langwell when he was called up in early June. He has not pitched well this season as he has allowed too many baserunners and had some command issues, and has just not gotten the swing and miss the Cubs thought he would give them when they picked him up. That said, he should be a solid depth option for them going forward, and if he can remain healthy perhaps his stuff, command and velocity will be more consistent and improved so he pitches like so many people think he can.

In hindsight, I don't believe it was a mistake leaving them unprotected. While both have some major league ability, there really is not much which separates them from the plethora of relief options the Indians have from Cleveland down to Double-A Akron, so they didn't lose much. Both will probably be up and down between Triple-A and the bigs the next several years as they look to establish themselves at the big league level. Rondon is injury prone and McFarland lacks put away stuff, but you never know what will happen with them.

Paul B. wrote: What do you think the odds are that the Indians add Kyle Crockett to the big league roster? I remember when the White Sox brought Chris Sale on board as a matchup lefty reliever just two months after he was drafted in 2010. He gave them a strong performance and an indication of things to come. Crockett could provide a relief option for which opponents had little scouting information.

Me: Well, the Indians are done adding players to the roster for the rest of the season unless a fluky rash of injuries occurs. They were strongly considering adding Crockett to the roster, but in the end they chose to add Clay Rapadato the roster because of his major league experience and not wanting to push it with Crockett at this point.

Crockett is no doubt a major league option for next season. He should get an invite to big league camp in spring training and will give the coaches and front office six weeks to see him work and pitch firsthand. He likely won’t make the opening day roster, but he could be sent right to Triple-A Columbus for the start of the season and be in the majors by the end of April or in early May if needed. He’s that close. While I am just speculating, I expect him to pitch in the Arizona Fall League this October-November to continue to gain experience facing top talent in order to expedite his transition to the big leagues.

Peter P. wrote: Hi Tony, just thinking about the Cuban defector Jose Abreu. I hadn't seen the Indians associated with him in any of the stories of teams looking at him but given what I've read, doesn't the dollar amount ($60M) make sense for a right-handed hitting power hitter which our team so desperately needs?

Me: I absolutely agree that this team needs a proven RBI man, but that's the key, he has to be "proven". As much as this Abreu guy looks to be the real deal, you just don't really know. The recent signings of Yoenis Cespedes andYasiel Puig give some confidence in that Abreu may turn out just fine, but for $60M that's a big gamble for a team like the Indians who have several key questions to tackle internally with their payroll for next season and may be limited in what they can do on the free agent market.

Given his price tag and the market already being stirred up for him, I'd be hugely surprised if the Indians signed Abreu – though if he can be signed for much less and for a contract similar to Cespedes (4 years, $36 million), I could see some interest by the Indians.  If they go after any big time bat this offseason I still think Kendrys Moralesis going to be the one that they make a strong effort to sign – though if the Mariners extend him the qualifying offer that would eliminate them from considering him as they refuse to lose a first round pick to sign anyone.

Jeff K. wrote: I did a quick glance at your payroll section of your site. Am I correct in saying that with the exception of Justin Masterson, every potential member of next year's rotation is either signed for either five more years (Kluber, McAllister) or 6 years (Bauer, Salazar)? So if somehow the Indians can sign Masterson to an extension our entire rotation would be set (barring injury) for four or five years?

Me: Yes, the Indians suddenly have some long term stability with their starting pitching and also have some depth. Obviously, all of that can chance in a moment’s notice thanks to injuries, but right now their starting pitching and also their bullpen situation looks strong for the next few seasons.

This is why I wrote over the weekend that resigning Ubaldo Jimenez is not a priority and that they should instead use any available money on starting pitching to give Justin Masterson an extension and lock him up for several more years.   Resigning Masterson to a long term deal is vital and I still think Scott Kazmir could be back on a two year deal as well. Starting pitching is the name of the game and is the one essential piece needed for every team to be a true contender.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

September 9, 2013 - 10:30 PM EDT
Hopefully Kazmir would cost less than a 2yr 18-20 million dollar deal, but who knows these days with free agency. If it doesnt cost a team a draft pick, he could very well get that much.

I have a feeling Masterson will be looking at far more than a four year deal worth 10-12 million a year. Anibal Sanchez was projected around those numbers too, but look what happened in a weak FA pitching class. I would expect Masterson to cost us around 70-75 million for 5 years.
Canadian Joe
September 9, 2013 - 9:14 PM EDT
I hope he gets a shot at it. He has come from almost nowhere this year to throw his hat in the ring. He has been impressive. Wish Bauer and Carrasco would take a serious look at what he has done. Thy both need a head slap. Mind you, Carrasco has done a good job out of the bullpen. Maybe he should be closing instead of Fright Nite Perez !!!!
September 9, 2013 - 5:52 PM EDT
Kazmir back 2 year deal, 9-10x2=18-20mill$ + incentives, masterson 4 year extension 40-48million plus incentives


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