The Kansas City Royals are coming off their best season since 1989, and are looking to improve on their 86 wins in 2013. Going forward, we are going to take a closer look at the players that should play significant roles for the Royals in 2014, as they try to make their first post season appearance since winning the World Series in 1985.
If you want to read the other completed profiles, just click here. This link will be updated as we add more profiles over the upcoming weeks.
Up next: starting pitcher Yordano Ventura.
The Kansas City Royals have developed exactly two star quality pitchers since the 1980’s – Kevin Appier and Zack Greinke. That’s right, just two in 25 years. That is how bad this organization has been over the past quarter of a century. It is almost impossible to not get lucky more often than that.
Even as recently as 3 years ago, the Royals had 5 starting pitchers on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects for 2011. Two of those, Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi, were included in the James Shields/Wil Myers trade. The latter is opening the season as the Tampa Bay Rays 5th starter.
Of the other three, John Lamb and Danny Duffy, have both had Tommy John surgery, and Lamb and Chris Dwyer have had their fair share of struggles. Only Duffy has enjoyed any degree of success on the big league level, and it was not enough to beat out the likes of Bruce Chen in this season’s rotation.
Yordano Ventura, on the other hand, may just be the next star pitcher the Kansas City Royals develop. Because of the dry air, windy conditions, and rough playing surfaces, it is usually the batters who enjoy inflated March stats. This spring, Ventura has produced some eye popping numbers from the mound.
Granted, it is an incredibly small sample size as Ventura has appeared in 5 games, 4 of which were starts. He has 20.1 innings pitched, and an ERA of 1.77, with a .934 WHIP. He has struck out 18 and walked 4. That is certainly enough to get anyone’s attention, and enough to earn the 5th spot in the rotation.
Of course, Ventura has to be effective when he goes north next week. He has shown the ability to pitch against major leagues on a very limited basis. Last September, he made three starts, 2 of which were when the Royals were still in the hunt for a wild card. He threw 15.1 innings, stuck out 11, and walked 6 on his way to a 3.52 ERA and 1.239 WHIP.
Four of the six runs Ventura allowed in his 3 starts came on 2 innings in his last start. The other 2 runs were scattered over 13.1 innings.
Of course, Ventura needs to work on his control, which has been better this spring. He can not afford to walk a lot of batters. As has been well documented, he is slight of stature at 5’11”, 180 pounds, and stamina has been an issue in his minor league career. If he wants to go deeper in games, he needs to to be efficient with his pitches, and keep hitters off base via base on balls.
With a pitcher of his physical stature, that throws as hard has he does as a starter (hits 100mph on occasion), arm injuries are a constant worry. In this day and age, Tommy John surgeries are relative common place. Rotator cuffs, shoulders, and elbows are all suspects to break down with a hard throwing youngster.
At this point, the Royals have to put their best five starters in the rotation. If they are going to go for their first playoff appearance in 25 years, they can’t worry about Ventura breaking down. Throw him out there every fifth day. If something goes wrong, it does, but the Royals cannot hold back because something might go wrong. Pitch him until something does break down.
If he can stay healthy, the Royals just may have another star pitcher on their roster. If things go right, maybe Ventura can take over as the staff ace when James Shields leaves after this season. It is time one of the arms worked out for the Royals. The history of success is very bleak indeed.
Let’s see if the future is brighter. Yordano Ventura could be a star, and it could be as early as this season. It is the Kansas City Royals’ turn to have a pitcher become a star.