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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Danny Salazar

Danny Salazar's All-Star campaign came grinding to a halt midway through the second half of last season as chronic arm and shoulder issues began to crop up. Will he be able to put those issues behind him in 2017? The IBI's Jake Dungan previews the right-hander's season in the latest capsule.

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Danny Salazar, RHP

Throws: Right -- Bats: Left -- Entering his age-27 season -- Contract: Avoided arbitration with a 1-year/$3.4 million deal (Free agent in 2021)

2016 In Review: By the time the Midsummer Classic had rolled around last season, it appeared Danny Salazar was in the midst of not only the best season of his career, but potentially a run at the Cy Young award. In 17 first half starts, the right-hander went 10-3 with a 2.75 ERA walking 46 and striking out 118 in 104.2 innings, earning him his first All-Star nod. Unfortunately, it was a different story after the break as the Dominican native went 1-3 with a 7.44 ERA in just eight starts as he was sidelined on multiple occasions with arm and shoulder injuries. While he was unavailable to start, Salazar did make three appearances out of the bullpen in the playoffs going 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA pitching seven innings. Obviously his arm is still as electric as ever as he continues to rack up strikeouts left and right, but his walk rate was also considerably higher in 2016 at 4.1 per nine innings, jumping from 2.6 the previous season. The question now heading into 2017 is will he have any lingering issues from last year's ailments and can he sustain that first-half success over a full season?

Versus Right-handers: Outside of 2015, right-handed hitters have put up better splits against Salazar slashing .252/.316/.400 over his career and .264/.351/.404 last season. They've also had a lower strikeout-to-walk ratio both in 2016 and over his career at 2.18 and 3.12, respectively. That being said, the contrast in numbers between left and right-handers is not too great and his splits are more balanced in other areas, such as stolen bases allowed as Salazar only gave up two apiece to right and left-handed hitters while allowing just 13 total over four seasons.

Versus Left-handers: Salazar has always been more effective against left-handed hitters throughout his career holding them to a .224 average and .674 OPS in his four years in the big leagues, including .200 and .628 marks in 2016. Additionally, the 27-year-old has fanned southpaws at a much higher rate, especially last season where he posted a 3.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefties versus the 2.18 ratio he had against right-handers. Over his career, that mark against left-handed hitters sits at 3.42, which is 30 points higher than his career ratio against batters from the right side of the plate.

Pitch Mix: Over the last two seasons, dating back to spring training prior to the 2015 campaign, Salazar has worked to reconfigure his pitch arsenal in order to formulate more of a gameplan to use during at-bats instead of just going out and relying on his sheer velocity to blow hitters away. That adjustment process has involved him using his two-seam fastball and his changeup more often along with adding in an occasional curveball to go with those pitches as well as his heater and slider. Not coincidentally, PITCHf/x valued his two-seamer and changeup the most last season at 1.5 and 12.5 runs above average, respectively. In fact, his changeup has gone up significantly in value over the last two seasons going from just 2.4 runs above average in 2014 to 13.6 in 2015. Velocity is still a big part of Salazar's game, but he has learned more about how to "pitch" since 2014 and could potentially add years to his career because of it.

Fantasy Impact: Unless something crops up in spring training, any lingering effects from last year's arm and shoulder issues for Salazar likely won't surface again until well into the season, by which both joints have been put under significant strain. The good news is the projections are optimistic for 2017 as Steamer and Depth Charts peg the right-hander at 12-9 with a 3.59 ERA in 29 starts. Plus, his projected WAR (3.3) would actually be higher than it was last year where he finished with a 2.5 mark. Health would be the primary concern with Salazar as elbow and shoulder injuries can be touchy for pitchers, but if he's able to put that all behind him, don't be surprised to see another All-Star worthy campaign.

Summary: Like Carlos Carrasco, the Indians missed Salazar's arm once October rolled around. It's easy to play the "what if" game looking back. Would the Indians have won it all last year with one or both of Carrasco and Salazar being healthy? It certainly can gnaw at the back of your mind. however it's time to start looking forward now to 2017 and a team that could be even better than the club that came ever so close last season. A healthy and productive Danny Salazar completes the Tribe's "Big Three" along with Carrasco and, of course, ace Corey Kluber. Between that trio, the back of their bullpen and their infield defense, the Indians could put up elite level run-prevention numbers in 2017.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.

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