Replacing: Ervin Santana
Assigned to Double-A Northwest Arkansas to open the 2013 season, Yordano Ventura posted a 2.34 ERA and a 74-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57.2 innings over 11 starts. As a result of his success, the right-hander was moved up to Triple-A Omaha in the middle of June and pitched well in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Appearing in 15 games (14 starts) at the more advanced level, Ventura registered a 3.74 ERA and 81-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 77 innings.
Promoted to the major leagues on Sept. 17 to start against the Cleveland Indians, the 22-year-old flame-thrower allowed one run on five hits and two walks over 5.2 impressive frames in his major league debut. He struck out three batters in the outing, showcasing a fastball that averaged 97.7 mph and registered as high as 102.5 mph at one point, according to BrooksBaseball.net.
He ultimately made three starts with the Kansas City Royals down the stretch of the regular season, registering a 3.52 ERA with a .224 opponents’ batting average and 11-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15.1 innings.
Ventura has always possessed a lightning-quick arm and fastball in the mid- to upper 90s, but the strength he added over the last year has led to him touching triple digits consistently. Ventura’s breaking ball will flash plus with sharp downer break, and he’s become increasingly comfortable throwing it in any count. The right-hander is still developing a consistent feel for his changeup, though it has the potential to still be highly effective due his arm speed.
Even though he’s a 5’11” right-hander, Ventura still manages to strike out opposing hitters at a favorable rate. However, his lack of downhill plane on the fastball and raw feel for the changeup has the potential to be exploited in the major leagues.
Although he’s added considerable strength over the last year, Ventura’s wiry frame and command result in high pitch counts early in games and raise questions about his long-term future as a starter.
That being said, Ventura took a huge step forward this past season in terms of both his consistency and command and, more importantly, became more than a guy who throws really, really hard. He has the ceiling of a No. 2/3 starter, but there’s no guarantee his frame can handle 200 innings over the course of a season.
With the Royals unlikely to re-sign Ervin Santana due to his high price tag, Ventura becomes a strong candidate to replace him in the 2014 starting rotation. The right-hander obviously will have to prove himself at the major league level and may endure some growing pains, but the upside is huge.