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Salazar demoted, House becomes sleeper

Danny Salazar still has great strikeout potential but he won't start the season with the Indians. Frank Victores/USA TODAY Sports

The plight of Cleveland Indians right-hander Danny Salazar is a reminder that being able to throw a baseball harder than most everyone else isn't always a ticket to statistical stardom. Salazar, a flamethrower who shined in 2013 when he fanned 65 hitters over 52 innings in 10 starts, couldn't replicate that success in 2014 in the majors or minors, and now he's again ticketed for Triple-A Columbus. Salazar's spring numbers were ugly with an 8.18 ERA and 1.72 WHIP over four starts, which won't make those who have already drafted him pleased. As of Monday morning, Salazar was still a top-75 pitcher in ESPN ADP, ahead of several notable options such as teammate Trevor Bauer, Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Matt Garza and Kansas City Royals lefty Danny Duffy.

While Salazar is every bit a strikeout guy -- unlike the pitchers the Indians chose for the back of their rotation -- something is clearly missing, and at this point, he's not worth selecting in a 10- or 12-team standard league and I wouldn't rely on him in any format, really. He was already on my bust list, though depending on cost, sure, I would have saved a bench spot for him. Salazar fanned 120 hitters in 110 big league innings last season, and it was unfortunate the rest of his numbers didn't translate well. His hits allowed outnumbered his innings pitched, a bit unusual for a guy who can hit 98 mph regularly, but an inflated BABIP of .344 played a role there. I didn't see any of Salazar's spring outings, but then again he had little trouble missing bats, whiffing 15 over 11 innings. Hitters also squared him up quite well, making five of their 14 hits go for home runs. It's also been suggested by those who cover the Indians that Salazar needs a bit of work on maturity and preparation, so we'll see how he reacts in April.

What struck me about Salazar in big league games last season was just how straight his otherwise electric fastball generally looks, and there's not much that can be done about that. Of course Salazar throws hard. According to the Bill James Handbook, he threw 783 pitches at 95 mph or more last season, eighth in the circuit, and Salazar tossed only 110 big league innings! What's odd is all the other AL pitchers in the top 10 of that category were successful in 2014, leading analysts and fantasy owners to really like Salazar's potential. Hey, I still do. It's why analysts are recommending New York Yankees right-hander Nathan Eovaldi as well. He throws hard. The issue with each of them is that when hitters can time a straight 95-98 mph heater, they can catch up to it, and Salazar doesn't throw other pitches consistently for strikes -- namely his slider and changeup. When he does, watch out, but I also wouldn't be surprised if he is a future closer. With Eovaldi, he led the National League in hits allowed last season, despite throwing fewer than 200 innings and in a pitchers' park. He's not in a pitchers' park now.

As for Cleveland's rotation -- viewed now as a special place to be due to pitching coach Mickey Calloway and the Cy Young-like emergence of right-hander Corey Kluber -- I don't think right-hander Zach McAllister makes that next step up to dominance, but I could see lefty T.J. House becoming 10-team relevant. As discussed by myself and colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft on Monday's Fantasy Focus Baseball #06010 podcast, House is intriguing because as a rookie he made 18 starts and produced a 3.35 ERA that wasn't at all fluky; his xFIP was 3.10 and the team should be improved defensively, especially when shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor gets promoted. House was second among all pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched in ground ball percentage last season -- at better than 60 percent -- but he also gets enough strikeouts with his terrific slider. If I knew Salazar and House would make 30 starts this season in the majors, I'd take House for ERA, WHIP and reliability, and Salazar solely for the strikeouts. Now it looks like only one of them has a shot at 30 starts.

AL roundup: Looks like I was wise to get Texas Rangers outfielder Ryan Rua on several deep-league teams. He appears to have won a starting nod with Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Ludwick being released. … Don't get too excited about Boston Red Sox catching prospect Blake Swihart yet. Sure, Christian Vazquez might not play this season, but the team has defensive-minded veterans Ryan Hanigan and Humberto Quintero. I bet Swihart gets half a season in Triple-A, at least, and then perhaps a trip to Philadelphia in the Cole Hamels trade? Dare to dream! … I wasn't drafting overrated Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander before the triceps strain; I'm sure not doing it now. Look for a pending DL stint. … Need a sleeper power source with second-base eligibility? The Houston Astros demoted third baseman Matt Dominguez, freeing the position for former Chicago Cubs platoon option Luis Valbuena. … If choosing between rookie second basemen likely to have won starting jobs, I'll take the stolen base upside of Micah Johnson of the Chicago White Sox over the steady Devon Travis of the Toronto Blue Jays.

NL roundup: The Philadelphia Phillies have apparently settled on Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera as their center fielder, and Ben Revere will handle left field, where his poor arm will better serve the team. It doesn't affect Revere's statistics. Since everyone seems to be asking, Herrera is indeed in ESPN's system as David Odubel Herrera, and with notable shortstop eligibility. With batting average and stolen base upside -- but neither close to Revere's level, for example -- he's a perfect NL-only middle infielder. As for who loses playing time, you didn't want Grady Sizemore anyway. … I'd like to see the St. Louis Cardinals give lefty Marco Gonzalez the last rotation spot now that lefty Jaime Garcia seems DL-bound, but word is Carlos Martinez will get it. If Martinez can get lefty hitters out, he'll be terrific. I'm a bit skeptical. … Even if the New York Mets place second baseman Daniel Murphy on the DL with his hamstring issue, don't let him slip far in drafts. Murphy is underrated and can still reach double-digit stolen bases.