The Kansas City Royals Need Success From Prospect Yordano Ventura


On Monday, June 3rd, on his 22nd birthday, the Kansas City Royals promoted pitching prospect Yordano Ventura from AA Northwest Arkansas to AAA Omaha. After the failures of the franchise’s recent top pitching prospects, the Royals really need Ventura to be a success, not only at AAA, but also, eventually, in Kansas City.

July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; World pitcher Yordano Ventura throws a pitch during the first inning of the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Ventura started one game last season in the Arizona Rookie League before getting moved up to single A Wilmington. He started 16 games there, accumulating a 3.30 ERA, 1.231 WHIP, 98 strikeouts, and 28 walks in 76.1 innings of work. The early season performance in Wilmington earned him the starting nod for the World team in last year’s Futures Game, held in Kansas City. Ventura pitched a perfect first inning, in a game in which the US Futures’ team scored 17 runs.

During the second half of the 2012, Ventura was promoted to AA Northwest Arkansas, where is numbers weren’t near as impressive. In six starts, he pitched 29.1, wracking up a 4.60 ERA, 1.227 WHIP, 25 strikeouts, but 13 walks. The numbers weren’t atrocious, but neither were they terrific.

In AA in 2013, Ventura was terrific 11 starts. In 57.2 innings, he has produced a sparkling 2.34 ERA, and a 1.023 WHIP. He struck out 74 and issued just 20 walks. His numbers certainly warranted his promotion. In his first start at AAA on Thursday, Ventura did not disappoint. He went 5 very strong innings, giving up just 1 run on 1 hit. He did walk 4 batters, which hurt him, but he struck out 6 as well.

Royals’ fans have been disappointed numerous times over the years by pitching prospects. In this age where acquiring quality pitching is so difficult and costly, small market teams must successfully develop pitching to have much chance competing for championships. The Royals need Ventura to be a major league success. Fortunately, they will not likely need him in 2013. He has time to develop and work on the things he needs to so he can be successful at the major league level.

The Royals rotation is full and healthy at this moment (knock on wood). Danny Duffy is throwing rehab starts in the minors and Felipe Paulino will start this week. The Royals even have two erstwhile starters toiling in the bullpen in Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen if things went horribly, horribly wrong. Will Smith has shown he can be used as a spot starter on occasion as well. Kansas City, for the first time in decades, has legitimate options for their rotation. There is absolutely no need for the Royals organization to rush Yordano Ventura.

Yentura is slight of frame at 5’11”, 180 pounds. He needs to work on keeping his pitch count down so he can work longer into games. With his build, it is doubtful he will ever be an innings-eating workhorse. He is only averaging 5.1 innings a start this year. He needs to push that number up to at least 6. As he has started more and more games, his Walks per 9 Innings has crept over the 3 mark. He needs to harness his control and get that figure down below 3.0.

July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; World pitcher Yordano Ventura follows through on a pitch during the first inning of the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports via USA TODAY Sports

Because of his build, there are worries about his health and stamina but very few pitchers don’t spend any time on the disabled list. Injuries to pitchers are part of the game. The goal for the franchise is to have Ventura ready to by the start of the 2014 season. If the Royals are out of it by September (still clawing to that last shred of hope that they can turn it around), maybe he can get a start or two at the end of the season, but the Royals need him next season and they need him to be good.

According to ScoutingBook.com, Ventura is complimenting his fastball with his off speed repertoire:

"Ventura complements a plus fastball with rapidly-improving curves and changeups so well that the Royals may need to accelerate his development."

Alex Eisenberg at Baseball-Intellect seems to agree:

"StuffFastball – Can reach triple digits, but is most comfortable in the mid-90s. Pitch is explosive with very good life.Curveball – Shows a sharp, hard break when he doesn’t overthrow it. Potential plus offering.Change-Up – Can generate great separation in velocity from his fastball, but can be inconsistent in terms of arm speed and action. It’s this pitch that will likely dictate whether Ventura’s future big league role is as a starter or reliever.Scouting ReportVentura probably has the best pure arm in the Royals organization. They signed him on the cheap out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, and he’s generated a nice return for the organization.Ventura’s speciality is that he misses bats at a high rate. He struck out over 25% of all batters faced in both 2010 and 2011. Last year he bumped that number up to over 30%. He also throws strikes on a pretty regular basis, something you don’t see that often with pitchers like Ventura. That said, he did show somewhat of an adjustment period after a promotion to Double-A.Where he must take the next step is with his command. He’s not particularly good at locating within the strike zone, and he’s prone to leaving balls up in the zone. It’s why, despite how good his stuff is, he allowed a high average on balls batted in play. When his fastball is working down in the zone, it runs away from right handers. As a result, he’s capable of getting ground balls despite his height.Ventura has a repeatable delivery and an extremely fast arm. He will overthrow at times, which causes his fastball to rise."

This is a player the Royals cannot afford to screw up or have miss. They need to grow a pitcher (several really, but baby steps) on their farm who can be an above average starting pitcher in the majors. It appears Ventura can be that pitcher, sooner rather than later. If the Royals want to ever challenge for the AL Central or a World Series title, they need to start seeing results for having a supposedly great, deep farm system.

The Royals are never again going to be able to field a rotation at the cost of the 2013 edition – Glass will never fork over enough money again. Success if going to have to stem from the minor leagues. A lot is riding on Yordano Ventura’s slender frame. Let’s hope he holds up.