If the choice for Starting Pitcher of the Year for the Springfield Cardinals (unveiled here tomorrow) was a no-brainer, then the selection for top relief pitcher is nothing short of a shoo-in. Fernando Salas was picked in May by the St. Louis Cardinals organization as their Minor League Pitcher of the Month. During the month of May, Salas was 0-0 in 12 games with five saves, 28 strikeouts, only two walks and an ERA of 1.23, keeping his opponents to a .104 batting average against him.
According to Jeff Luhnow, vice-president of scouting and player development for the St. Louis Cardinals, Salas was purchased from the Mexican League in 2007, along with Angel Rivera, who played in the Gulf Coast League this season, after years of the Cardinals trying to get a foothold in the Mexican market.
Salas has three main pitches--an average velocity fast ball, a curve ball with considerable power and a rarely-used change-up. Salas, who wears number 38, is 6-foot-2 and weighs 200 pounds. He was born May 30, 1985 in Hustabampo, Sonora, Mexico and the Cardinals control his rights until 2013.
Salas was ranked number 18 in Baseball America's Top 20 prospects in the Texas League. His teammate Jess Todd ranked seventh. Salas was twice a 2008 Texas League All-Star, at the mid-season and post-season. He also was named to the 2008 All-Star Futures Game, held at Yankee Stadium.
Perhaps the best indicator of Salas deserving the nod for Relief Pitcher of the Year for the Springfield Cardinals in 2008 is the fact that he had 25 saves on the year, an astonishing record on its own. The player with the next most saves was Luke Gregerson, who came away with 10 saves on the year--a full 15 saves behind Salas. The rest of the Springfield squad picked up only five saves among them for the entire season.
Look for Salas to begin the 2009 season with Springfield, but move quickly to Memphis and work out of the bullpen as a closer. If he continues to improve and impress scouts and managers as he has in 2008, he could very likely appear in the Big Leagues before the end of the season--depending on how deep the need for a closer goes in St. Louis.
Salas' stats speak for themselves:
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Congratulations to our Springfield Cardinals Relief Pitcher of the Year, Fernando Salas!
Master article with all 2008 Scout.com Cardinals Minor League Players of the Year and the schedule for daily announcements: link. (This link is also permanently located at the lower left of The Birdhouse home page.)
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