Rated as one of Miami’s top prospects at the time of the trade, Salas can’t buy a hit with his new organization.
I was critical of the price that the Miami Marlins paid in trading for Luis Arraez and won’t run away from that stance just because it has worked out gloriously. It was difficult to fathom why the Marlins deemed it necessary to deal multiple prospects to the Minnesota Twins in addition to Pablo López when one of those players was highly regarded infielder José Salas. In a market starved for affordable starting pitching, they should’ve had more leverage.
Well, perhaps Miami’s front office deserves more credit in hindsight, because Salas’ value has rapidly deteriorated since then. While Arraez flirts with .400 against the best pitchers in the world, Salas hasn’t even sniffed the Mendoza Line since High-A Opening Day.
Entering Saturday, Salas ranks dead last among all qualified hitters in the Midwest League with a .165 batting average and a 46 wRC+ (100 represents the league average). The 20-year-old still has youth on his side—every pitcher he has faced in 2023 has been older than him—but that didn’t stop him from posting a .230 BA/88 wRC+ in his 48 games there last season.
Salas is showing less game power and getting worse results on balls in play despite putting the ball in the air more often. Can’t blame the struggles of the Cedar Rapids Kernel on his new surroundings—Salas’ numbers on the road are nearly as bad as those at his home ballpark of PG Cares Field. Whatever plagues the talented switch-hitter is affecting him from both sides of the plate. It’s especially difficult to explain why his strikeout rate has soared from 18.9% to 28.4% when his swinging strike rate is almost identical.
Already this season, Arraez has twice recorded five-hit games; meanwhile, Salas has had only two two-hit games. Even his “good” days haven’t been that impactful.
During the past week, Salas consistently batted seventh or eighth in the Cedar Rapids lineup. That in itself is worrisome—if the Twins regarded him internally as a 45/50 grade prospect the way that most public talent evaluators did entering 2023, wouldn’t they be maximizing his reps regardless of results? Salas is only sixth on his team with 197 plate appearances.
The Twins currently lead the American League Central division and they inked López to a long-term extension. Hopefully, that takes some of the pressure off of Salas and he gets back to playing the way he’s capable of.
Featured image courtesy of josesalas593/Instagram