The Cleveland Indians have a track record of starting pitchers that have break out seasons and win the Cy Young award. CC Sabathia (2007), Cliff Lee (2008), and Corey Kluber (2014) have all been recipients of this honor in the past decade. While Chris Sale's absolutely dominant start to 2016 has him as the current favorite for the award, a new ace is emerging in Cleveland. His name is Danny Salazar.
Entering 2016 the Cy Young odds for Salazar were +2500, which was tied for 12th best in the American League. He has always had great "stuff" as evidenced by his career 10 strikeouts per nine innings. In his 2013 rookie season Salazar struck out an impressive 65 batters in just 52 innings.
Expectations were high entering 2014. While he was still striking out over a batter per inning, Salazar was far too hittable and allowed a whopping 9.6 hits per nine innings en route to a disappoints 4.25 ERA. In 2015 he decreased his hits per nine to 7.6, which lowered his ERA to 3.45.
No starting pitcher has been tougher to get a hit off of in 2016 than Salazar. He has allowed just 27 in 50 innings, which is good for a league leading 4.9 hits per nine. In his eight starts he is 4-2 with 61 strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA.
What's interesting about Salazar's season is he is allowing 4.1 walks per nine, which is well above his career average of 2.9. This means that Salazar can afford some regression in his hits allowed if he can cut down on the walks. The award is currently Sale's to lose but Salazar's progress will be a story worth monitoring if he continues his breakout season.