When the news of the Bourjos-Freese trade broke and we heard that there was a Cardinals reliever involved in the package, visions of Martinez and Siegrist danced through our heads. Instead, the Angels wound up with Fernando Salas. While he may not excite the standard Angels fan, Jerry Dipoto obviously saw something that made Salas worth targeting. What was that exactly?
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA calculation is approximate because my math skills are only “meh”)
What happened in 2013?
The big thing that you will first notice about Salas’ 2013 season was that he spent roughly half of the season in the minors. Considering that Salas had been a contributing member of the Cardinals bullpen for two and a half seasons and wound up being expendable, that is pretty concerning.
The thing is that Salas hadn’t been particularly worse than he had been in previous seasons. He had that great 2011, but his 2013 numbers in the majors were on the same level as his 2010 and 2012 numbers. Those weren’t great numbers, but they were good enough. It didn’t help that the Cards had a pretty crowded bullpen, so Salas getting demoted was at least partially just a numbers game and partially him missing time with a shoulder issue and then kind of getting forgotten about.
As for the actual numbers, Salas continued to be a flyball pitcher who gave up a commensurate number of homers. The good thing he did was cut his walks way, way down. In his great 2011 season, keeping walks to a minimum was the big differentiator. Unfortunately, the decrease of walks came with a decrease in strikeouts, which may have contributed to his inflated ERA. Well, that and his inability to repeat that unrepeatable .226 BABIP from 2011.
What do the projections think he will do in 2014?
The good news is that the projections seem to think that Salas can maintain the cut down on walks. That holds water considering that Salas continued to suppress walks in the minors after he was demoted. The big disagreement comes on his strikeout rate. Two of the systems have him stuck at the middling K-rate he posted in 2013, but the other two have it spiking back up by over a full strikeout per nine. Not surprisingly, there is an inverse relationship between the K/9 projections and the ERA projections.
No system has Salas being able to perform at a level where he would be considered a closer candidate like he briefly was in 2011, but there is at least hope that he can be a useful middle reliever.
Does the Monkey agree or disagree?
I basically split the baby. Salas should be fine. He’ll benefit a little bit from moving to the Big A and having a competent defensive outfield behind him. He should also be buried deep enough in the bullpen depth chart that he can be used more judiciously. In 2011 and 2012, Salas was something of a workhorse for the Cards. He shouldn’t have to do that in Anaheim.
That’s a good thing because Salas really struggled with lefties last season and has had issues throughout his career. That appears to stem from his changeup being garbage, at least according the metrics. I’m not about to pretend as if I have seen him enough to actually assess his changeup, I just know what the numbers indicate.
What are the known unknowns?
I’m a bit worried that he lost over a mile per hour on his fastball. Salas had some shoulder troubles last season which were likely a contributing factor, but his velocity didn’t appear to come all the way back after he returned from the DL and minors. It is possible that maybe Salas changed something in his delivery so that he could have better command but had to sacrifice velocity to do it. Maybe it is both, I just don’t know.
I also don’t know what exactly Dipoto saw in Salas. Is it possible that he thinks he can get his velocity fixed somehow? Perhaps he will have him scrap the changeup. Or maybe he just saw an opportunity to add some depth to a very shallow relief corps.
We actually don’t even know if Salas will make the Opening Day roster just yet. I have to believe he will simply because Dipoto made a point of acquiring him and that there are so many open spots to fill, but we won’t know until the roster is officially set. Even then, when guys like De La Rosa and Burnett and Moran come off the DL, we don’t know who will be squeezed out to make room. That will all sort itself out, but as a result I scaled down his innings projection, just to be safe.