It only took one pitch to completely change my opinion on how the Kansas City Royals will fare this season. Did you see it? Did you see that filthy, new and improved breaking ball Yordano Ventura used to embarrass elite hitters through six dominant innings yesterday? That pitch changes everything.
That pitch, if Ventura can utilize it consistently this year, makes him at least the second-best pitcher in the rotation. Having that kind of junk in the arsenal makes his triple-digit heater even more imposing. This was evident throughout his six innings, six-strikeout, 73-pitch performance last night, but it was especially obvious while striking out Texas Rangers‘ Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo (twice) in nasty fashion.
After this outing, Yordano has 15 strikeouts in 15.1 innings pitched while only giving up a single walk. He’s doing a markedly better job of keeping his pitches down in the zone, and he’s still developing a changeup that’s already better than average. Yesterday, though, it was nearly all fastballs and — whatever that breaking ball is. Call it a slider with extra depth or call it a hard curve — I’ll just call it un-hittable.
Did we just see this year’s AL Rookie of the Year on the mound for KC? Nobody knows yet, clearly. Until Yordano can exhibit similar dominance in the regular season, this is all just speculation and hope. However, while he undoubtedly needs a bigger sample size to prove himself, it surely doesn’t seem as if that pitch will stop being devastating. For all we can see, Ventura looks like an ace in the making, and that’s enough to give any diehard fan goosebumps.
Before last night, I would’ve assessed that KC’s odds to improve the starting five despite the loss of Ervin Santana weren’t in their favor. Now, it looks like Ventura has a serious chance to exceed everyone’s expectations from the very start of the 2014 season.