Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Adrian Salcedo: The Future

Adrian Salcedo signed with the Twins as a free agent from the Dominican Republic on December, 13th 2007 at the young age of 16. From the moment that he signed there was talk that he could be special. That’s not to say that he was a bonus baby because his signing bonus was not huge. However, with his size and projectable many felt that he could become special. Now he has grown to 6’4 and 175 which is too skinny for his height, but he has the stuff that you could see him blossom into a number one type at the big leagues. Is he going to evolve into that who knows, but he is so far away from the majors the odds are not in his favor. However, he reminds me of Miguel Sano in that he has huge upside and if he can develop that upside into skills he can have the kind of impact that the Twins have not had out of a right handed pitcher in decades. At the age of 16 the Twins decided to keep him in the Dominican and he had pretty good numbers.

DSL: 4-4 1.65era 12 starts 65.1inn 47 hits 8bb 50k .198OBA

You could see the promise in those numbers as he held opponents to a less than .200 batting average and had almost a strikeout an inning and such a small era. Scouts that saw him began to salivate on what he could become if he continues to grow and improve. After those great numbers Salcedo made his American debut in 2009 as an eighteen year old with the GCL and did not disappoint.

2009 GCL: 3-2 1.46era 10 starts 61.2inn 60 hits 3bb 58 strikeouts .241OBA

That is when Salcedo exploded onto the scene as his walk to strikeout rate showed. Only three walks and 58 strikeouts is unbelievable. He gave up a few more hits than he did in 2008, but against better hitters and culture shock those numbers are unbelievable. He lowered his era in about the same inning total was quite impressive. The stat that impressed me the most was three walks in 61.2 innings which is like a walk every 20 innings which is crazy good. That season is where most felt he was a top 10 prospect in the Twins organization and felt that his potential was out of this world. In 2010 he started in EST with the idea to send him to Elizabethton when the time came. However, when the need arose in Fort Myers he took the big leap and amazingly held his own two to three levels too high for what he was ready for at the age of 19. He finished the season in Elizabethton and here is how he did.

2010 FM: 1-3 6.26 6starts 27.1inn 42hits 8bb 16k

2010 E-Town: 4-3 3.27era 16games 8starts 66inn 55hits 10bb 65k .230OBA

You may look at his Fort Myers numbers and said who he got rocked, but you got to remember that he was facing guys four to five years older than he was, but he went out there every time and competed. When he got to Elizabethton I expected him to dominate the way that he did in the DSL and the GCL, but he got off to a rough start and had an alright year. The thing that was big for him is he got the experience against some really good hitters. The stat that impressed me is as his velocity got higher and higher his walk total did not. In 93.1 innings he only walked 18 batters which are mighty impressive to me. This year the time came for Salcedo to see some stronger completion so at the age of 20 he got up to Beloit this year and has been solid.

2011 Beloit: 5-3 2.81era 16starts 99.1inn 90hits 24bb 68strikeouts .242OBA

Adrian Salcedo’s 2011 have been up and down as he has done some things very well and then there are some other things that leave you concerned. You got to love the 2.81 era and the .242 OBA. However, the question has to be what happened to the strikeouts as in every other year he averaged near a strikeout per inning and this year he is way less. With that he has been said to be touching 95 so you would think that his strikeouts would increase instead of decrease. That could be a number of different factors including the Twins wanting him to get more contact so that he can stay later in games. Or just that he is working on his secondary pitches and that has led to more contact. Regardless with him hitting 95 I really believe it is a matter of time before the strikeout rate not only gets back to where it was, but also improves. When you throw that hard it is just a matter of time for the strikeout numbers to rise. With that I am going to stop talking and let someone else have their say in this phenom. I am joined by fellow minor league guru Josh Johnson of josh’s thoughts on what he thinks of Adrian Salcedo.

First I asked him what he felt were Salcedo’s strengths and weaknesses and his response was, “Strengths: Projectable body, above average control, good velocity, and strong work ethic, young. Weaknesses: Underweight, this year he’s seen a dip in strikeouts, needs to refine his change-up and curveball.” I totally agree with Josh that his Velo will always be a strength for Salcedo and that is what will be his bread and butter. The thing with any pitching prospect though is they need to continually work on their secondary pitches as they move forward and that is no different for Adrian Salcedo. If he can refine his change-up and curveball to the level of his fastball then you have a package that will be really hard to handle.

Next, I asked Josh how high of a ceiling that he thinks that Salcedo has, “I think Salcedo’s ceiling is as a top of the rotation starter, but I’m still hesitant to call him a “future ace” because he’s so young. You can certainly make an argument though that he has more potential than any pitcher in the system.” That is where I disagree a bit with Josh as when I think of ceiling I think that if he develops how good can he be and when I see Salcedo I see a guy that has the potential to throw in the mid to high 90’s with great secondary pitches who defiantly can be an ace. So that is the ceiling that I see in him.

Next, I asked Josh what kind of reproitroire that Salcedo has and how hard he throws and his response, “Salcedo has a four-pitch repertoire. He has a 92-93 mph fastball, that he can sometimes crank up to 94 and 95 mph. He kind of throws two different variations of the slider; a big, loopy slider that he usually throws around 80-82 mph, and a sharp slider that he throws in the mid-80’s. His loopy slider is often confused with a curveball, but he does throw a regular curveball as well. His curveball has a big break, but he hasn’t been able to control it consistently throughout his career. If he’s able to control it, his curveball could be a nice weapon in his arsenal. He also throws a change-up in the low-to-mid 80’s. It’s a work in progress, but knowing the Twins, they’ll work hard with him to perfect his change-up before he reaches the Majors.” I couldn’t agree with Josh more on the the fact that the Twins love to see a plus changeup before they bring the prospect up to the big leagues. So I think Salcedo has to improve his change-up before we see him in the big leagues.

Then I asked Josh about what the future holds for Adrian Salcedo and his response was, “He’ll continue to move through the system at a steady pace until he reaches the majors. As I mentioned, he has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Speaking optimistically, of course, Salcedo reminds me little like a young Ubaldo Jimenez. At Salcedo’s age, Jimenez’s frame was a lot like Salcedo’s. He also has the making of an impressive repertoire like Jimenez does. If Salcedo can become near the pitcher Jimenez is, the Twins would have to be ecstatic.” I really like the comparison to Jimenez as that was what I was thinking too for a comparison to what Salcedo can be if he fulfills his potential. If he can get to that level all Twins fans would have themselves quite a pitcher.

Next, I asked Josh about being at such a young age is it too early to judge how good he will be? Do you think he can be an ace and what would you consider his ETA and his response was, “When evaluating prospects, you are always taking a risk? Given his age, ability, and production, he’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on and I’m a believer that he has more potential than anyone else in the system. If things go as planned – which it’s important to note that it rarely does –Twins fans can expect to see Salcedo sometime in 2014 (keep in mind that he’ll only be 23-years-old in 2014).” I agree that it is so hard to project these guys at such a young age and with so many promotions to get to the big leagues. However, that is what I find fun to talk about is to see if these guys can meet their potential.

The final question I asked Josh was what makes Salcedo different than some of the other starters in the organization and his response was, “I think Salcedo’s work ethic and athleticism makes him stand out amongst other pitchers in the organization. This isn’t a slight at anyone in the system (at least in particular), but I’ve been told that Salcedo’s work ethic is incredible and that he’s a man amongst boys in the weight room. Seth Stohs recounted in Spring Training that Salcedo sprinted the mile-run. Given his skinny frame, he’s been hitting the weight room hard this season in order to get stronger and bigger. He was forced to the bullpen late in 2010 because he was exhausted by the time August rolled around. So hopefully this year he’ll be able to last the entire year in the rotation, but it’s important to note that he’s already at his career high in innings pitched.”

Adrian Salcedo is a long ways away from being on the verge of being a big leaguer and who knows if he is going to be anything. However, the potential is there and as a prospect guy that is what you are looking for is the promise to become special. For years the Twins have went with pitchers that were good, but not special and who had a high likelihood of reaching their potential. With a guy like Salcedo the chances of him getting to be as good as he could be is probably remote, but the potential is there and that is what gets everyone so excited. If Adrian Salcedo can get to where he needs to get he can be the right handed ace the Twins have been waiting on for years. It will be very interesting to see if he continues you to get better and better and to get stronger. Because if he does the Twins just might have hit the jackpot as a prospect and he could be the future ace for the Twins as they head into the next phase of Twins Baseball.