This weekend, I had the good fortune to see the Quad City River Bandits and Beloit Snappers play a rainy doubleheader (Low-A, Midwest League). Two top prospects, Minnesota's Adrian Salcedo and St. Louis' Carlos Martinez, started the first game. I had a chance to talk to Salcedo afterward.
Salcedo, who just turned 20, is a tall (6-foot-4) right-hander from the Dominican Republic. The Twins have brought him along pretty slowly, bringing him from the Dominican Summer League (2008) to the Gulf Coast League (2009) and then the Appalachian League (2010). He was given a taste of the Florida State League, and it has motivated him. He admitted he is now "competing for Fort Myers," which is in the High-A FSL.
Salcedo's delivery is fundamentally sound. He throws from the high three-quarters angle that is traditional among Latino pitchers. It isn't a quick delivery, but it isn't slow either. He uses his top half a little more than one would like to see, and his arm is stopped by his body at the end of his delivery. Salcedo gets good downward movement on his fastball and aims to generate ground balls. He was clocked at 88-91 mph on Saturday.
Salcedo's best off-speed pitch is his changeup, which he doesn't mind throwing to right-handed hitters. His main breaking ball I saw was a low-80s slider, which he worked into the game in the later innings. It didn't have a ton of movement, but was effective. Salcedo's control was above-average, and he came at hitters early in the count. He gave up his last two runs after a throw from the center fielder bounced over the catcher. Salcedo was backing up the play, but the catcher could not corral his throw, leading to a two-error play.
Long term, Salcedo has the upside of a No. 3 starter. The Twins are bringing him along well, giving him time to add some velocity. Salcedo clearly has major league aspirations: he mentioned during our interview that his trainer in the Dominican also worked with Alex Rodriguez and Pedro Martinez.
RotoWire: Congratulations on your win today. How do you feel after the win?
Adrian Salcedo: I am happy. I did good work, my best.
RotoWire: If you continue your current success, you will be called up to the Florida State League, where you ended last year.
Adrian Salcedo: Si, Fort Myers.
RotoWire: What did you learn from that experience?
Adrian Salcedo: The zone, the strike zone, the umpire - is small, little. Every pitch, strike, in the DSL [Dominican Summer League]. In High-A, no. Ball, ball, ball. 'What's up? What happened?' Other hitters, in the DSL, swing every pitch. In the High-A, no swing. Check, check. This is more competitive. This is a good experience. I learned a lot. It was different from Elizabethtown [Appalachian League], because I didn't know what they would call a strike. The Midwest League is a lot like Elizabethtown. I want Fort Myers right now. Me, I am competing for Fort Myers right now.
RotoWire: What do you feel is your best pitch: fastball, curve, slider, or changeup?
Adrian Salcedo: In the game today?
RotoWire: No, in general.
Adrian Salcedo: Usually my fastball and my changeup. These, very - commanding my fastball and changeup is central. You fool, a different look for every hitter. By combining these pitches, it messes up the timing of the hitter, because they don't know what I will throw. My best pitch is the sinker. Everybody - ground ball, ground ball, ground ball. My sinker is very good.
RotoWire: You have very good control of your pitches, as you have given out very few walks so far in your career. For example, you haven't walked a batter this year when there's already a runner on base. What do you work on to accomplish this?
Adrian Salcedo: Throw strikes. You see, throw strikes. Never the hitter - two ball, three ball, no. One, two, three, get out. Throw strikes.
RotoWire: You have also given up very few home runs. Is this something you consciously try to do - to keep the ball in the park - or do you just try for the out?
Adrian Salcedo: Home runs - very inside. Sometimes, I throw outside. Down, down. Every time - down, down.
RotoWire: Do you have a favorite major league player? Ubaldo? Albert Pujols.
Adrian Salcedo: Albert Pujols? Yeah, Pujols, Albert Pujols, is favorite. Pedro Martinez.
RotoWire: Do you model your game after anyone?
Adrian Salcedo: No - I'm me. This - other guy. This is me.
RotoWire: How long have you been playing baseball?
Adrian Salcedo: Since I was eight years old.
RotoWire: Did you play any other sports growing up?
Adrian Salcedo: Basketball.
RotoWire: What would you like to tell us about your home town of Moca, Dominican Republic?
Adrian Salcedo: It's a good city, very pretty.
RotoWire: Eduardo Nunez of the New York Yankees is from Moca. Do you know him?
Adrian Salcedo: I've seen him a few times, but I've never talked to him.
Carlos Martinez, just 19, made his second start in the US after signing with the Cardinals last year and pitching in the Dominican Summer League. St. Louis appears eager to jump-start his development, as they are skipping him past rookie-ball altogether. Martinez was clocked at 94-97 mph on Saturday with great arm-side movement. He didn't appear fazed by anything, including when he walked in two runs in the third inning and was knocked from the game. At just 6-feet, 165 pounds, Martinez will generate some Pedro Martinez comparisons.
Martinez looked pretty overpowering early on, and was only reached when he started nibbling and the Beloit hitters put together some good at-bats against him. They didn't hit him hard; they just put the bat on the ball and served it to the opposite field. Martinez threw some changeups and curves, but his command of these pitches was erratic. When he fell behind, he generally had no problem throwing a fastball for a strike.
Martinez has an exciting arm, and he appears to have native confidence in his abilities. I like his delivery, which is quicker than Salcedo's. Like Salcedo, Martinez's arm is stopped by his body, which is a testament to his arm speed. Martinez is five months younger than Salcedo, and is more inexperienced. It will be interesting to see if he can stay healthy and throw strikes this year. If he can, he will clearly establish himself as the organization's top pitching prospect after Shelby Miller.