In their biggest game of the year, the Cleveland Indians' starting pitcher will be Danny Salazar, who before this season had pitched in exactly six games above Class A.
Crazy? Hardly. While Salazar wasn't a Top 100 prospect before this season, was ranked by Baseball America as the Indians' sixth-best prospect, and has won exactly two games in the majors in his whole career, he's proved himself over the last six months, first in the minors and lately in the majors. Thanks mostly to his tremendous stuff ... as Jack Moore points out:
According to the PITCHf/x data at BrooksBaseball.net, Salazar has hit at least 99 mph once in all 10 of his starts. His average fastball velocity has never been below 96 mph. Unsurprisingly, the result has been one of the most unhittable fastballs in the major leagues. Batters have whiffed on 29 percent of swings at Salazar's fastball, the best rate of any starting pitcher with 400 pitches thrown this year.
Salazar's ability to control the pitch may be more impressive. He has thrown 67.8 percent strikes with it thus far, a full three percentage points above the league average. Many fireballers find themselves undone by the superior discipline of major league hitters, but Salazar's control forces hitters to swing, rather than getting ahead in the count and waiting for a mistake.
Young pitchers. You just never know for sure, do you. Then again, when you've got a kid who throws a hundred, it's not so hard to dream in the spring. Or even in the fall.