The Cincinnati Reds have recently had a carousel of pitchers coming up from Triple-A due to injuries and some ineffectiveness. That movement, along with his start to the year in Double-A Chattanooga led to Eduardo Salazar being promoted up to join the Louisville Bats last week.

A former starting pitcher, Salazar is in the bullpen full time this year and the results have been outstanding. He pitched in nine games for the Lookouts and allowed one run while giving up nine hits and walking just two batters in 13.2 innings. He also struck out 22 batters out of the 54 that he faced.

In his debut in Triple-A he only faced one batter. Last night he pitched two innings, didn’t give up a run, and he struck out three. That lowered his ERA on the season to 0.57. And he’s now struck out 25 batters with just two walks. Opponents are 12-60 (.200) without an extra-base hit against him on the season. He has been equally dominant against left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters.

On top of Eduardo Salazar racking up tons of strikeouts, he’s also racking up tons of ground balls in the case where the batter does make contact. This season he’s had a ground ball rate of 63%. That’s the highest rate of his career by a wide margin. But there’s probably a reason for that, too.

While we don’t have public data from Trackman or Hawkeye for the minor leagues going back far, or at all for some levels and players, being in the pressbox can be useful for gathering some data from these systems. I checked my notes on Eduardo Salazar and a few years ago he was throwing a very different fastball than he’s throwing today. When he was in Dayton his fastball was a 4-seamer that had an above-average spin rate. While we’ve only got 2.1 innings worth of Hawkeye data on Salazar from his time in Louisville it’s very clear that he does not throw that pitch anymore.

Today Salazar is throwing a sinker, and it’s got a lot of sink on it. The spin rate, as far as fastballs go, is very low. But that’s the point, too. The reason that a sinker sinks is because of the low spin rate. It’s the same reason that a 4-seamer “rises” – it’s got a higher spin rate (and why true high-spin rate fastballs lead to more swings-and-misses – they move more than the batter expects them to based on all fastballs).

The fastball isn’t the only pitch that’s changed/been scrapped since then, either. He used to throw a curveball in the mid-to-upper 70’s. That pitch hasn’t shown up in Louisville. What has, though, is a mid-80’s slider (if you are peaking in at the Gameday stuff, they are calling this a cutter, but the movement is a little more slider-like than cutter-like, though the two pitches can often blend because they move very similarly for a lot of guys). That pitch didn’t exist for him a few years ago.

Development usually isn’t linear. And for Eduardo Salazar that’s quite true. Starter to reliever. Remaking his pitch arsenal. Some success and failure along the way.

Where he’s at right now, and what he’s doing right now is very intriguing. When you look at the quick numbers on his stuff, it doesn’t jump out at you. He’s throwing 93-95 MPH with his fastball. His slider and change up are working in the mid-to-upper 80’s. But if you dive in a little deeper you can see that the fastball is moving a lot, and doing so on both planes.

There aren’t a lot of guys throwing sinkers who pile up strikeouts. But when you find guys who can miss bats who also get tons of ground balls, you tend to find guys who are very, very good pitchers. Right now that’s what you’re getting from Eduardo Salazar. Double-A and Triple-A are not the big leagues. Hitters up there are better. They chase less often, they make more contact when they swing, and they hit the ball harder.

If Salazar keeps pitching remotely close to how he’s pitched so far this season, we won’t have to wait too much longer to see if what he’s doing can carry over to the big leagues. Cincinnati’s desperate for pitching. And while he’s not on the 40-man roster right now, they can make room if they want to.

About The Author

Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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13 Responses

  1. Randy in Chatt

    And while we are at it, it is time for Andy Fisher to move up a level too!

    • DaveCT

      With SanMartin out, it’s a good opportunity to see what he has going at AAA. When you think about it, both Fischer and SanMartin have similar stuff.

  2. Optimist

    Joe Boyle’s line today – oh my.

    Quick Q – seems the Reds MiLB teams have done well and improved the W-L stats the past week or two – is that correct? If so, what happened?

    • Stock

      Many on here were stating for weeks that is was the lack of player development. I disagree. Much of winning and losing is due to the 12 – 25 men on the roster. My guess is the Reds don’t spend here like others so when the 6th man out of the bullpen the Reds lose and others scream player development. But there are other factors as well. It is no coincidence that Louisville started winning when EDLC and CES entered the lineup. Marte has finally hitting which helps Chattanooga. Petty returned and the other four Dayton starters have been good.

      • Optimist

        Yes – it doesn’t seem like “player development” can explain MiLB W-L records that simply. Those returning from injury were very key players, and the bottom of the roster lack of talent makes sense, but raises other questions – namely, with MiLB contraction the talent pool for quality expanded. So, is it simply frugality that kept the Reds from augmenting the bottom of the rosters? There’s certainly dumb luck/fate/karma involved, but I wonder if the Reds have an unusual system of very good performing prospects, and poor performing talent that may have one great skill but not enough others to sustain average performance? Several of their recent (2-4 years) higher draft picks have just dismal stat lines.

      • DsveCT

        One key aspect of player development IMO is developing the player, the kid, in addition to the skill set. And a big part of that is drafting the right kid. Look at the recent #1’s, Stephenson, Senzel, India, Greene, Lodolo, McClain, Collier, not to
        Mention Ashcraft, Diaz, Abbott, Friedl, Fairchild, Look at the trade acquisitions, too. Fraley, Steer, CES, Marte. Look at EDLC. All seem like not just high character guys but also high aptitude guys. This is a very successful scouting and development program.

      • 2020ball

        Minor league team’s records have literally zero baring for me as it relates to player development. They get way overblown by many fans.

      • Optimist

        2020ball – generally agree, but I haven’t confirmed it, but there’s an anecdote that Branch Rickey created the first farm system, for the Cardinals, in 1919, and they have never finished in last place since then.

        Now, there are all sorts of qualifiers to that, but the underlying point is that while a MiLB W-L record is not the absolute zero-sum indicator as it is in MLB, and has little bearing on any individual player’s development, there is, and must be, some value to a “culture of winning”.

    • Stock

      Other than not being able to throw strikes (9 BB) he looked fantastic. Got a lot of GB, several of which resulted in double plays, and IFFB.

      Overall not a promising result in spite of giving up 0 ER in 5 IP.

  3. Dan

    You called it, Doug! Salazar has been called up (and Bracho DFA’ed)… you were 7 days ahead of the curve.

    The numbers are really impressive, and I agree on the value of a grounder/strikeout pitcher (sorta like Luis Castillo, perhaps?). Especially at GABP.

    Go Eduardo!