Will the Royals call up flame-thrower Yordano Ventura for the final weeks of the season?
With the Double- and Triple-A playoffs nearing completion, there’s a chance there will be one final wave of call-ups before the end of the season.
At this point in the season, most of the game’s best young hitters have already been promoted and debuted in the major leagues. The same can’t be said about pitchers, though. Unless there’s an urgent need for an arm with the parent club, organizations typically prefer to keep their top pitching prospects in the minor leagues so as to ensure they receive a sufficient workload.
But once the minor league playoffs are over, teams looking to bolster their rosters for the final weeks of the season are free to do so without the fear of destroying their farm systems.
Here’s a look at five prospects who could be called up after the minor league playoffs.
2013 Stats (Triple-A): 9-6, 124.1 IP, 3.33 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .225 BAA, 124/40 K/BB (22 GS)
2013 Stats (MLB): 23 IP, 5.09 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, .289 BAA, 17/6 K/BB (5 G/4 GS)
Acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays along with Wil Myers and two other prospects in the December deal that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City, Jake Odorizzi spent the first half of the season bouncing between Triple-A Durham and the major leagues. But after receiving limited opportunities as a swingman with the Rays, the 23-year-old was ultimately sent back to Triple-A.
Odorizzi was one of the more consistent pitchers at the level after rejoining the Durham starting rotation in late June, posting a 2.87 ERA and 64-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64 innings (12 starts). As a result of his success in the minors, the Rays called up Odorizzi to make a spot start on August 29 against the Los Angeles Angels. He responded with the best start of his major league career, allowing one run on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings.
While he features above-average command of a deep, four-pitch mix, the right-hander doesn’t have swing-and-miss stuff. Additionally, Odorizzi’s evolution into a fly-ball pitcher remains a concern, as he posted an unfavorable 0.64 GO/AO (ground-out to fly-out) ratio this season.
Still, he’s already shown the ability to get out major league hitters this season—and briefly with the Kansas City Royals at the end of the 2012 season—between two separate stints with the Tampa Bay Rays. Expect Odorizzi to rejoin the club and work as a long reliever following the conclusion of the Triple-A International League playoffs.
2013 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 8-6, 134.2 IP, 3.14 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .238 BAA, 155/53 K/BB (26 G/25 GS)
Yordano Ventura was promoted to Triple-A Omaha in early June after an impressive first half of the season with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. But the 22-year-old got off to a shaky start at the more advanced level, posting a 5.95 ERA with 26 hits allowed and a 21-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his first five starts. After that, however, he was one of the Pacific Coast League’s top pitchers with a 2.36 ERA and 49/15 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his final 42 frames (eight starts).
It seemed as though Ventura was a candidate to work out of the Royals’ bullpen when the rosters expanded on September 1, but the organization decided to keep him in the minor leagues with Triple-A Omaha playing in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) playoffs. And then there was the recent news that Ventura was scratched from his start in the PCL finals for a violation of team rules, though we never learned anything more about the nature of his infraction. Whatever happened, it’s clear that both Ventura and the Royals have put it behind them.
Ventura was ultimately pushed back one day and took the mound on Wednesday in Game 2 of the PCL finals. While he picked up a no-decision, the right-hander was excellent overall, allowing one run on three hits and three walks (one of which was intentional) with six strikeouts over six innings. The Royals likely will continue to exercise caution with Ventura, but there’s no question he would be a late-inning weapon out of the team’s big league bullpen.
2013 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 11-5, 140 IP, 2.96 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .219 BAA, 127/47 K/BB (25 G/24 GS)
The No. 39 overall selection in the 2010 draft, Anthony Ranaudo had a disappointing 2012 season in which he made only nine starts at Double-A Portland and spent most of the year on the disabled list.
Looking to rebound and hop back onto the big league radar, Ranaudo was one of the top pitchers in the minor leagues over the first two months of this season, registering a 1.15 ERA and 58-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 54.2 innings at Portland.
The 24-year-old regressed during both June and July, though that was expected given the heavier workload. The Boston Red Sox promoted Ranaudo to Triple-A Pawtucket for the final month of the season, a challenge he responded to by posting a 2.97 ERA and 21/7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30.1 innings.
Depending on when Ranaudo makes his next start for Triple-A Pawtucket in the International League playoffs, there’s a chance that the right-hander could still receive a late-season promotion to the major leagues.
2013 Stats (Double-A): 4 SV, 66 IP, 2.59 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 66/44 K/BB (46 G)
Selected by the New York Yankees in the 12th round of the 2010 draft out of St. John’s University, Danny Burawa has been viewed as a reliever since entering the organization. In 2011, the right-hander spent his full-season debut between both Class-A levels, posting a solid 3.64 ERA with five saves and a 66-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 84 innings. Unfortunately, Burawa suffered a torn oblique muscle and undiagnosed rib injury in 2012 and was forced to miss the entire season.
This year, however, the 24-year-old demonstrated a different approach in his first season at the Double-A level. Burawa has done a better job attacking hitters with his 94 to 98 mph fastball with some late arm-side life, which in turn has made his above-average slider in the mid-80s all the more effective. Simply put: He’s been more aggressive and trusting of his pure stuff.
The right-hander finally has started to miss the number of bats his stuff suggests—he’s also done a good job inducing ground balls—but it’s come at the price of an ugly 15.1 percent walk rate (44 in 66 innings). While Burawa’s command obviously will need further refinement in the minor leagues next season, he represents one of the more projectable relievers in the Yankees’ system. And given the state of the team’s exhausted bullpen, he could still conceivably get a look in the major leagues with Double-A Trenton’s season now complete.
2013 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 11 SV, 73.2 IP, 1.22 ERA, .163 BAA, 70/19 K/BB (51 G)
Selected in the 20th round of the 2010 draft out of Chipola (Fla.) Junior College, C.J. Riefenhauser was developed primarily as a starter during his first two years at a full-season level. But after spending the first half of the 2012 season in the High-A Charlotte rotation, the Rays’ organization decided to transition the left-hander to the bullpen. Riefenhauser responded favorably to his new, adjusted role, and reached Double-A Montgomery by the end of the season.
Assigned back to Double-A this year for his first campaign as a full-time reliever, the 23-year-old was outstanding as Montgomery’s closer, posting a 0.51 ERA with 11 saves, .153 opponent batting average and 48-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53 innings. And after mastering the level, the Rays promoted Riefenhauser to Triple-A Durham following his appearance in the 2013 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
While he didn’t post video-game numbers at the more advanced level, the left-hander was still highly effective in the late innings with a 3.05 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 20.2 innings. Don’t be surprised if he’s in the major leagues following the completion of the Triple-A International League playoffs.