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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Better Know a Red #23 - Brad Salmon

Yesterday, the Reds promoted 27-year old Brad Salmon to the big league club to replace the DFA'd Rheal Cormier. Salmon was the Reds' 21st round selection in the 1999 amateur draft (that's the year that Josh Hamilton went #1), hailing from Jefferson Davis Community College (other Alumni include Joe Valentine). His first season with Billings was pretty rough, but he performed reasonably well in A and high-A ball over the next three seasons as a starter. In 2003, the Reds converted him to relief. Since then, he's shown steady, incremental improvements as he has slowly advanced through AA Chattanooga and AAA Louisville. 2005 saw significant improvements, but it was last season when Salmon seemed to finally take off.

2004/CIN-A+ 24 16.7 8.6 1.6 0.0 0.54 0.54 1.82 0.250 3.37 8.2 --
2004/CIN-AA 24 65.3 7.3 3.0 0.4 4.82 4.27 3.18 0.322 4.46 -5.4 --
2005/CIN-AA 25 72.7 8.8 3.8 0.4 3.84 3.34 3.06 0.326 4.65 7.2 50%
2005/CIN-AAA 25 16.3 4.4 2.8 1.1 3.31 3.31 4.73 0.231 5.39 4.4 59%
2006/CIN-AA 26 23.3 9.3 6.2 0.0 2.70 2.70 3.20 0.300 4.60 3.9 56%
2006/CIN-AAA 26 57.7 11.2 4.2 0.5 2.81 2.34 2.78 0.273 4.04 12.6 40%
2007/CIN-AAA 27 8.3 9.8 0.0 0.0 2.17 2.16 1.03 --- --- --- ---
Salmon's 2006 season is interesting, because the hard-throwing right-hander's strikeout rates really took off and were over 10 k/9 across AA and AAA. At the same time, his walk rates, which historically had been decent enough (mid to low 3's), also shot up. Overall, he walked a not-so-good 43 in 81 innings last year, but also struck out a very impressive 96. The net effect was a improved performance, but I worry that the command issues could be fatal once he starts pitching for Cincinnati. We can just hope that his command will return to where it was during the previous years in his career. He has been encouraging thus far in 2007--he has yet to walk anyone in 8 1/3 innings.

My guess is that his success in the majors will be determined by whether he can continue to get the ball over the plate. Also working in his favor, however, is the ability to induce ground balls--he usually (except at AAA last year) has had ground ball rates of at least 50%, and his career average of 0.48 hr/9 in the minor leagues is excellent.

It will be interesting to see how long Salmon can stick with the Reds this year. Jared Burton's rehab assignment is likely to expire within the next few weeks. Unless Salmon can really impress in his first few appearances, my guess is that he'll return to Louisville when the Reds are forced to promote Burton again. And even if he survives that transaction, the imminent return of Gary Majewski and eventual return of Bill Bray may also force him back down the river.

Still, I think there's a chance that Salmon can help the Reds this season. As Narron pointed out, they don't have much in the way of power arms in their bullpen outside of Coffey, and he seems to be pitching in the low-90's rather than the high-90's that he very occasionally flashes. If Salmon can be effective (throw strikes), he'll provide a nice change of pace from the other right-handers in the bullpen. According to PECOTA, one of Salmon's comparable players this season is Derrick Turnbow of 2005 (1.74 ERA, 67.3 IP, 64/24 K/BB)--obviously a best-case scenario, but that would be a nice addition to the 'pen. :)