The words “young and talented” get overused nowadays by many involved in Kansas City Royals media, myself included. It may seem redundant or even hyperbolic due to its overuse, but those words are simply too synonymous with the team’s loaded farm system. One impressive example is the right-handed Dominican flamethrower, Yordano Ventura.
Ventura began 2013 playing Double A ball but showed enough promise to earn a late-season look at the big league level. In his first two outings, Ventura pitched 5.2 innings and gave up one earned run. In his first MLB appearance, he caught the attention of national media by serving up a 102.8 MPH heater to Yan Gomes. As promising as his velocity may be, Ventura needs to do more with his changeup and curveball to make him ultimately more effective. As proof to that point, Gomes actually hit that particular fastball squarely into center field for a single, and Ventura was pulled from the game.
Scouts say Ventura’s curveball has the chance to be another plus pitch, as long as he learns to throw it for strikes and avoids overthrowing. This pitch is a work in progress, and if Ventura leaves it out over the plate, hitters can send it far, far away. His changeup is further behind even than his curveball, but it does benefit from his ridiculous fastball velocity. The change has late fade to it, and when it’s paired with a fastball with late life that consistently nears triple digits, it will be inevitably effective.
In a small sample size, Ventura was successful at the major league level, but does this mean he’ll earn a spot in next year’s starting five? It depends on many roster variables, most of which are out of his control. KC is still uncertain about re-signing Bruce Chen and/or Ervin Santana, not to mention other free agents on the market. The contract situation with Felipe Paulino, who will be fully recovered from surgery well before Spring Training, is still totally up in the air. Even if the Royals decide to go with youth, the most promising young starter so far would have to be Danny Duffy. Duffy earned himself five starts in 2013, following the rehabilitation of his throwing arm throughout the year, and recorded a 1.85 ERA, whereas Ventura recorded a 3.52 ERA in only three starts. The right combination of lefties and righties is also important to consider, but that will be close to impossible until several contract situations become a bit less hazy.
If Santana and Chen both get re-signed, it would take some long-lasting poor performance to replace anyone in the starting five (presumably Chen or Danny Duffy) with Ventura. If the Royals have this strong of a rotation in 2014, missing out on developing Ventura will be a good problem to have. If the rotation struggles or the aforementioned free agents aren’t re-signed, Kansas City will take a good, long look at this intriguing young right-hander very soon.