Career Profile: Luis Salazar
Atlanta Braves coach Luis Salazar tragically lost an eye during a spring training accident a few days ago. A reader suggested that we do a Career Profile for him, which seems like a good idea to me. I find the profiles for the non-superstar types just as interesting as for the better-known players.
Luis Salazar was signed by the Kansas City Royals as a free agent out of Venezuela in 1973. He played in just two games for the Gulf Coast League Royals in 1974, then drew his release. The Pirates picked him up as a free agent a year later, and he hit .238/.272/.331 in 42 games for Niagara Falls in the New York-Penn League, playing shortstop and outfield. He began to emerge as a prospect in 1977 with a .270/.296/.409 season for Salem in the Carolina League, hitting 11 homers. His plate discipline was weak and he made 40 errors at shortstop, but he flashed enough to avoid getting released. He went back to Salem in 1978 and hit .292/.335/.371 in 126 games, stealing 22 bases and starting to show his tools more effectively.
Promoted to Double-A Buffalo in 1979, Salazar exploded, hitting .323/.375/.515 with 27 homers and 21 steals. He wasn't a plate discipline expert with a 44/119 BB/K, but he was clearly a prospect. He moved up to Triple-A Portland in 1980 and continued to rake, hitting .316/.379/.477. He got traded to the San Diego Padres in early August and they brought him to the majors, where he continued to mash at .337/.371/.462 in 44 games.
Playing third base an outfield in the 1981 strike year, Salazar remained hot with a .302/.329/.402 campaign. The following season he stole 32 bases, but his other numbers dropped sharply as pitchers began to exploit his strike zone problems: he hit just .242/.274/.336.
Salazar settled in after that, used as a third baseman, outfielder, and general utility player for the Padres, White Sox, Tigers, and Cubs before retiring after the 1992 season at age 36. He finished with a career line of .261/.293/.381, OPS+ 88, WAR 8.9.
Once the league got used to him, Salazar would usually hit in the .250-.270 range with a weak on-base percentage due to his lack of walks. He would show occasional power and had good speed when he was younger. He was extremely versatile with the glove, playing third base, shortstop, outfield, and first base, with third base being his best position. He wasn't a great player, but he was a useful one and a nice guy to have on the bench.