Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tampa Bay Rays: Juan Salas RHP #53

As we continue on our 40 Rays in 40 days series, our next Ray is P Juan Salas.

Juan Salas
RHP #53
HT:6'2 WT:230

The Dish: Or should I say "The Juice", Salas originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Rays in 1998 as a 20 year old infielder from of the Dominican Republic. Salas spent six years in the Rays system as a third basemen. He also played some shortstop, second base and outfield. In 2004 Salas played 78 games for AA Montgomery at third base before converting to pitcher. He reported back to rookie ball and pitched in eight games for Princeton. In 2005 Salas started at advanced A Visalia and ended back up with AA Montgomery this time as a relief pitcher. In 2006 Salas made an incredible leap, going from AA to MLB. Salas posted extremely impressive numbers as the Montgomery Biscuits closer, going 3-0 with a 0.52 ERA and 14 Saves. Working primarily with a cutter that some likened to Mo Rivera, he was promoted to AAA Durham where he went 1-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 27 games. The Rays made him a September call up and he made is debut on 9/5/06. Salas pitched in eight games with a 5.40 ERA. Salas made the Rays bullpen out of spring in 2007, but was suspended 50 games for Performance Enchancing Drugs in May. After the suspension, he returned to AA Montgomery and then AAA Durham to some innings in before returning to the Majors in July. For the year Salas was one of the better Rays relievers.

2007 Numbers:(Rays) 34 Games, 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP (AA Montgomery)0-0 27.00 ERA in 2 Games (AAA Durham) 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 7 Games.

Jules Fantasy Impact: As with most non-closers he'll have value if he can post a low WHIP. Middle relievers get picked up and dropped all season long, I'm sure Salas will be one of those players. If he can even come close to translating his minor league stats to the majors he'll have value beyond AL-only leagues.

Role for '08: Going into the offseason Salas seemed to have a strong hold on a bullpen job, but as the season got closer Salas's chances got worse. First, the signing of veterans such as Percival and Miller created less competition for last year relievers. Second, Salas is one of the only candidates with a option to go back to the minor leagues. Third, he hasn't even reported to spring training yet due to visa issues in the DR. Salas will almost certainly start the season at AAA Durham and be the first bullpen call up when needed.