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Kansas City Royals: Who Cares Who The 5th Starter Is On Opening Day

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Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura (30) Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Yordano Ventura is ready as well. A lot has been written about this talented youngster with the 100+ mph fastball. That fastball alone, barring injury, probably ensures he’ll get his shot this season and Dayton Moore has already stated that they’d like to see if they can’t get 200 innings out of Ventura this season, presumably at the Major League level.

Royals farm director J.J. Picollo has called Ventura critical if the Royals are going to be a contender, so clearly, the Royals are hoping for big things.

Ventura got the proverbial cup of coffee last season getting three starts down the home stretch for the Royals. He posted an 0-1 record with a 3.52 ERA. The line however, was less important than the experience.

In an interview with the Kansas City Star’s Vahe Gregorian last week, Ventura noted,

"Now I’m really comfortable with the environment, with the guys around me, with how things are in the big leagues…it (last season’s brief stint) really helped my mentality."

As for Ventura’s youth, he already seems to be getting a better understanding of the craft.

"I don’t have to throw hard every time…it’s not about how hard you throw, its about locating and how you keep guys off balance."

Bottom line, Ventura has electric, truly breathtaking, stuff but if he has actually figured out how to pitch rather than just throw, he could be a monster. While he has struggled at times with his control, he maintained a relatively consistent 3 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio throughout the minors.

According to Scouting Book.com, Ventura has “a plus fastball and rapidly improving curves and change-ups”, so if he can stay consistent and avoid injury, Royals fans can expect big things from this talented youngster.

I wrote all about Hochevar in last week’s post, so I won’t belabor my position here. Suffice to say, the front-office has a lot invested in Hochevar, he has a lot to prove, and seems to have finally cracked the code when it comes to harnessing all that talent.

So if any of this pans out, we are staring at a Royals rotation that is young, bursting with talent, and extremely hungry for success. It also means the team has a very deep, veteran led bullpen with a lot of Major League savvy and an All-Star closer.

If these predictions come true, the Royals could use Bruce Chen or Jason Vargas appropriately, according to their talents, as spot starters, long relievers, or back-of-the-rotation guys who can bridge the gap across injuries and eat up innings.

The numbers don’t lie. These guys are major league average pitchers and they should be used accordingly.  If the Royals are to contend, they should not be mainstays in the rotation, unless its on the very back-end.

Admittedly, there is some wiggle-room with this assessment. Could I see Vargas beating out any one of these three and securing a spot in the rotation? Yes. If Vargas ends up in the 5-hole or possibly even as high up as the 4-hole, the Royals are still in good shape. That would mean that at least two of the three between Duffy, Ventura, and Hochevar actually panned out.

If, on the other hand, the Royals are trotting Vargas to the hill as their number 2 or even number three, that is a formula for another season of “wait ’till next year”. The time is now for this squad and the Royals need some of their decisions regarding the home grown pitching to start paying dividends.

If the Royals are to succeed this season, these kids need to not only secure rotation slots, they need to secure front-of-the-rotation slots. I firmly believe they will.

Pair that with an extremely talented core group of position players and that stellar defense, and like the Royals have maintained for the past three years now, 2014 is looking like the beginning of a long run of playoff caliber baseball…finally, the drought ends!