We aren’t sure why it took so long but people are starting to notice the amazing things that Juan Salas is doing in the minor leagues this season. If you are a regular visitor to RI, then you know that we are firmly entrenched on the Juan Salas bandwagon and are clamoring for a promotion to the Devil Rays. Salas was recently promoted to AAA Durham after pitching most of the first half for the Montgomery Biscuits. At Montgomery, he pitched 34.2 innings allowing a ridiculously low 13 hits. He also struck out 52 compared to 14 walks. The most impressive number? Zero. As in no earned runs (4 unearned) allowed. Since his promotion to Durham, he hasn’t slowed down. In 10 appearances he has pitched 12.2 innings allowing 6 hits, 4 walks while striking out 15. He has yet to allow any runs in AAA. This was followed up by a recent appearance as the lone Devil Rays representative in MLB’s Futures Game. In the game, Salas retired the lone batter he faced.
Originally signed as a third baseman at the age of 16 out of the Dominican Republic. In six seasons as a fielder, Salas batted an unimpressive .264, never hitting more than 7 home runs in any single season. On top of that, after the Sept. 11, 2001 crack down on immigration, it turned out Salas was three years older than the organization thought he was and all of the sudden Salas was no longer a 20 year old prospect with an upside. He was then a 23 year old minor leaguer who had probably reached his potential. Then in 2004 he pulled a “Delmon Young” at one point, by throwing a bat at an umpire after striking out, earning himself an indefinite suspension. During the suspension, the team decided to take a new route and converted Salas to a pitcher and sent him back to the rookie league Princeton Devil Rays. Two years later, Salas is one of the top relief pitcher prospects in all baseball.
At this point Salas has a major-league fastball and slider. His fastball tops out at 96 with natural movement like a cutter. His slider hits 86. Maybe the only thing holding back Salas at this point is the development of a split-finger pitch. Here is hoping that the front office will allow Juan to work on the pitch on the mound at the Trop.