2009 Cardinals Prospect #24 – Fernando Salas

Springfield's closer was one of the surprises of the Cardinals system in 2008. Can he sustain it in 2009?

Scout.com Player Profile (including links to full 2008 and career stats)

2008 ranking: Not ranked

Position: RP

DOB: 5/30/1985

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 200

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

School: Chihuahua, Mexico

Became a Cardinal: Contract purchased from Saltilla of the Mexican League on April 5, 2007.

Selected 2008 stats

SPR 7 3 3.65 60 0 25 74 65 31 12 16 100 0.83 0.236
MAZ 2 0 5.14 6 0 0 7 4 4 1 3 5 0.78 0.167

Staff comments (individual rankings in parens)

Dustin Mattison (20): One of the biggest surprises in the Cardinals' system in 2008, Salas stormed on the scene by mowing down Texas League hitters on his way to an All-Star berth. The 23-year-old struck out 100 hitters in 74 innings while racking up 25 saves, tops in the league.

A find out of the Mexican League, the first night I saw him pitch he was lighting up the radar gun in the Texas League All-Star game. On that night, he was throwing his fastball in the high nineties with good bite on his curveball. Salas shows good command as witnessed by his only 16 walks compared to those 100 strikeouts.

The 6-foot-2 right-hander should start the year at Memphis and having shown the ability to work multiple innings, Salas could be primed to make his big league debut at some point in 2009.

Ray Mileur (22): The Texas League All-Star and Futures Game replacement player, burst on the scene in 2008, racking up 25 saves for the Springfield Cardinals, while posting a record of 7-3 with a 3.65 ERA, in 60 games, 74 innings pitched. His numbers after the All-Star break generate a little concern, despite going 4-2 with 13 saves, opponents did hit .280 off of him in the second half and his ERA ballooned to 5.17 after a very good 2.53 ERA in the first half of the 2008 campaign. Salas is someone we should keep an eye on. Did his arm just tire out during the second half or did the hitters just figure him out?

Message board community (27): Salas entered the 2008 season with most people expecting little of him. After posting a 5.26 ERA at high class A in his rookie season and an even less impressive three-game stint in the Mexican League, Salas entered the year destined to be a middle reliever at AA Springfield (a spot many thought he wasn't ready for). Salas surprised everyone by putting up strong numbers from the start. When Springfield's closer struggled, Salas stepped into the role and never relinquished it, posting 25 saves during the season. He also racked up nearly 1.5 K's per inning and a K:BB ratio of greater than 5:1. Those impressive numbers were enough to garner him several post season awards as the top reliever in the Texas League.

Despite his strong numbers and awards, Birdhouse community voters seemed leery to vote him too high in their rankings. It is as if no one believes he is for real yet. Salas should get a chance to prove that in 2009 as he is expected by most people to be the closer for AAA Memphis to open the season. If he is able to put together another statistical season like last year he could vault into the top 10 of the prospect rankings next off season. - CariocaCardinal

Brian Walton (31): I readily admit that I am prone to stay with players that have demonstrated consistent success in the past and conversely, with a finite number of ranking spots, I am less inclined to be the first to jump on the bandwagon of emerging players.

I am not ready to anoint Salas as the real thing based on two dominant months, April and May. He didn't amass as many strikeouts over the next three-plus months as he accrued early. After limiting opposing hitters to a .142 average for the first 60 days, the next three months were a more normal .276, .271 and .297, respectively. Salas also hasn't had a great start in winter ball, though the sample size is small.

While I didn't vote in the Community ranking, I agree with their collective trepidation.

To see our entire list of 40 prospects, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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