The Tigers signed Salas as an amateur free agent in December 2005, as a soon-to-be 17-year old prospect. Though they had been following him intently since the July 2nd signing period began, Salas was pursued by numerous teams and his decision process was lengthy.
In his debut season of 2006, Salas found himself struggling against some older and more developed competition in the Venezuelan Summer League. In 60 games for the VSL club, Salas finished with a .199/.265/.246 line, with only one home run and seven stolen bases in 12 attempts.
The 2007 return trip through the VSL was much nicer to Salas, as he found his name littered across VSL leader boards. For the season, Salas posted a .272/.340/.370 line that included ranking first in the circuit with 18 doubles, and ninth in the league with 40 RBI. Salas showed possibly his most progress in July of 2007, posting an impressive .284/.333/.442 line with his only two home runs of the season.
The Tigers moved Salas stateside for the 2008 season and he showed quite well for a 19-year old playing for the first time in the United States. When injuries hit in Lakeland, Salas was aggressively pushed to High-A as a fill-in, where he went .267/.421/.467 in just six games for the LFT. He moved back down to the Gulf Coast League for the remainder of the season, and hit at a .253 clip with eight doubles and four home runs in 45 games.
Salas played 22 games for the Detroit team in the Liga Parallela in Venezuela during the off-season, posting a .253/.378/.480 line in 22 games. He hit five doubles and four home runs, and also stole eight bases without being caught.
Salas is a multi-tooled player with a chance to be a quality outfield regular down the line. He has above-average straight line speed with good routes in the outfield. His jumps are a little slow, but that should improve with additional game experience. He tracks the ball well once in flight, and he can make up ground on balls in the gap. He has the arm strength for right field, but his speed is an asset that is better used in center field as long as his defense will allow.
Despite the above-average speed mentioned above, Salas is a very raw base stealer whose instincts must improve dramatically for him to be a true threat on the bases. He struggles reading pitchers, particularly left-handers, and he will need significant strides in this arena to take advantage of his speed in his offensive game.
Luis has above-average raw power to the pull side and he has the potential to have the same to all fields once he learns to go with the pitch more regularly. Despite strong walk rates in the VSL and even last year in his stateside debut, Salas struggles with pitch recognition and he must adopt a more disciplined approach in his at-bats. He frequently lunges at off-speed pitches, taking himself completely out of the pitch. Once his strike zone tightens and he is able to focus on hitting better pitches, he has a chance to develop an average hit tool and above-average power to all fields.
Salas has the raw tools to be a quality prospect, but he's being held back by his approach and ability to recognize pitches. At just 20-years old, there is still time for significant gains in these areas, and still time for Luis to develop into a more polished and well-rounded player.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP SLG A
Salas has been battling some mild tweaks and strains this season, but he has been largely healthy in the past. He has an athletic body with a good frame. His work ethic is such that he should continue to refine his body and become a stronger and more physically developed player; with the potential to avoid lingering injuries.
The Tigers continued to show a willingness to be aggressive with Salas, pushing him to West Michigan for the start of the 2009 season. Though he has struggled against some more advanced pitchers, he is holding his own and flashing good tools for scouts in attendance. There are some that believe he has the ability to be develop into a solid center field prospect, and others who believe he profiles as more of a fourth outfielder. There's plenty of time on Salas' side, so don't expect him to be pushed more aggressively than he already has, at least until he begins to regularly translate his tools to on-field success.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.