Washington Nationals Free Agent Profile: Fernando Salas
By Ricky Keeler
The Washington Nationals are still looking for bullpen help. Could Fernando Salas be a fit in middle relief?
After losing out on Greg Holland to the Colorado Rockies, the Washington Nationals are still looking for help in the bullpen. If they decide to stay internally with the closer spot, they will need to add another middle reliever. We’ve looked at many options, but one under-the-radar name is right-hander Fernando Salas.
Salas spent the 2016 season with the Los Angeles Angels and the New York Mets. The 31-year-old had a 4.47 ERA in his first 58 appearances of the year in Los Angeles. Then, on August 31, the Angels traded him to the Mets at the waiver deadline for pitching prospect Erik Manoah.
Once Salas went to New York, he was a big help to the Mets bullpen. He had a 2.09 ERA and did not walk a single batter over 17 games while striking out 19. His 19 K’s were the most of any Mets reliever in the bullpen, including closer Jeurys Familia (16).
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Of course, Salas isn’t going to go a full season without walking anyone. In fact, if you combine his stats from both teams, his 2.3 walks per nine innings in 2016 were higher than it was in 2015 (1.7).
Earlier this week, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweeted that there are many teams showing interest in Salas, so if the Washington Nationals want to sign him, there is going to be competition:
While 17 games is a small sample size, teams rarely ever made contact on Salas’ fastball while with the Mets. According to Brooks Baseball, teams had a .083 average against that pitch and 14 of his 19 K’s came via the heater. When teams did make contact, it usually went out of the park.
When with the Mets, Salas allowed four runs, but gave up three home runs. One of those home runs was a Wilson Ramos solo home run on September 14, which was the difference in the Washington Nationals defeating the Mets, 1-0.
If you look at Salas’ pitch arsenal more closely, he doesn’t have that electric fastball, but it averages out at 91 miles per hour (according to Fangraphs). Plus, he has a slider and a changeup. In fact, his groundball ratio went up from 35% in 2015 to 39% in 2016.
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With 18 days to go until pitchers and catchers report to West Palm Beach, the Washington Nationals still need to find a reliever or two to fit into that bullpen. Salas isn’t one of the best names out there, but he could be one of those creative moves that ends up paying off for a team this season.