Kings of Kauffman Prospect Rankings: #18 Yordano Ventura

Who: Yordano Ventura
DOB: 6/3/1991
Position: RHP
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 140
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Acquired: International Free Agent – signed October 8, 2008

Rankings:
~ Baseball America #12
~ Royals Prospects: #18
~ Royals Review #14
~ Kevin Goldstein: #13
~ John Sickels #27 C+

Stats:

Year Age Tm Lg Lev W L ERA G GS IP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 K/9 K/BB
2009 18 Royals DOSL FRk 0 1 2.78 10 5 22.2 1.456 11.1 0.0 2.0 4.4 2.20
2010 19 2 Tms 2 Lgs 4 3 3.08 17 9 64.1 1.181 8.1 0.4 2.5 9.9 3.94
2010 19 Royals DOSL FRk 0 1 2.31 3 3 11.2 0.857 6.9 0.0 0.8 10.0 13.00
2010 19 Royals ARIZ Rk 4 2 3.25 14 6 52.2 1.253 8.4 0.5 2.9 9.9 3.41
2 Seasons 4 4 3.00 27 14 87.0 1.253 8.9 0.3 2.4 8.5 3.57
FRk (2 seasons) FRk 0 2 2.62 13 8 34.1 1.252 9.7 0.0 1.6 6.3 4.00
Rk (1 season) Rk 4 2 3.25 14 6 52.2 1.253 8.4 0.5 2.9 9.9 3.41
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2011.

Ventura is the second of the Dominican Duo from the Arizona League. We covered Robinson Yambati at #21 earlier.

Despite his listed 140 pound weight, Ventura can dial it up as well as nearly anyone in the Royals system.  Originally, his velocity hovered around 88-89 on his fastball when the Royals signed him at the age of 17.  Since, he’s added strength and improved his mechanics and regularly throws around the mid-90s and has reportedly hit 99 mph a couple of times.  Scouting reports say that he has excellent command and a quickly developing curveball that hangs around 80-84 mph.

I have him ahead of his fellow AZL top 3 prospect Yambati due to those reports of excellent command.  That, combined with the power he has on a small frame make him a potential lights out closer down the line.  He’s about five months younger than Yambati, but they both started at the same time in Arizona last summer.  He’s young and hopefully adding strength.

The main concern for Ventura is his size.  His height is fine, though not the “projectable frame” scouts rave about.  His first reported weight calls into question his ability to hold up over a full season, suggesting that starting isn’t his destiny.  The stuff is there, but scouts worry about durability.  J.J. Cooper of Baseball America and Clint Scoles of 14 for 77 have both made the comparison to Kelvin Herrera who has a similar build to Ventura.

The Royals seem to show that same concern as he’s pitched 30 fewer innings than Yambati since 2009.  He’s averaged just over 3 innings an appearance in time in the Dominican Rookie League and the Arizona Rookie League.  Yambati has thrown about half an inning more per appearance since becoming a pro.  It’s a small difference, and Ventura still made more starts in 2010 than Yambati, so the possibility of him as a starter hasn’t been abandoned.

As long as the two pitchers are still advancing through the minors, it’s almost inevitable that they’ll be compared to one another, even if it’s not fair.  Yambati fits the profile of how you think a starter should look – tall and strong.  Ventura looks like a short relief option.  With his stuff, that might be his best role anyway.  Over enough innings, it may be tough for him to maintain the upper-90s velocity and command that he has now.  His curveball command could suffer too as he tires late in games.  As a reliever, he’d have more license to reach back for a bit extra.

That limits Ventura’s upside, but to me, his command and strikeout rate make up for it enough to place him ahead of Yambati – for now.  Ventura owns a career 8.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 over 87 career innings.  It’s no surprise he’s picked by many to be a breakthrough candidate for 2011.  Yambati hadn’t posted a strikeout rate better than 6.5 K/9 until last season when he reached 8.7 and his walkrate had been relatively high, too, though for his career, he has a 7.2/2.7 career K/BB ratio (2.71) which isn’t frontline starter strong, but it’s more than capable for a good #3 guy.

If Ventura can add some muscle, that helps his shot at a starting role as he ascends through the Royals farm system, but what’s more important is refining the curveball and adding another pitch.  I’ve yet to run across reports that mention anything but his fastball and curveball.*  Even with two pitches, I think he’ll be a good reliever provided he can avoid injuries.

*In the interest of full disclosure, it’s likely the 2011 Baseball America Prospect Handbook addresses this third pitch issue, but my local bookstore hasn’t received copies yet and I’m waiting to help them out with my patronage.

Ventura is likely to start the season back in Arizona in the rookie league, and, should things go well, could make it to a low level short season team shortly after.  Thus far, he’s been successful and his control really allows him to stay consistent.  As the competition gets tougher, that will help him adjust to higher levels where he’ll probably give up hits more often (and his strikeout rate might drop slightly).  He’s another of a collection of live arms that are in the lower levels of the farm system and a few years away, but who are waiting as a second wave of talent once the big names hit the majors.

Keep track of the full list of prospects in the Kings of Kauffman Countdown on our Prospect Rankings page under the Organization tab or by clicking here.  Stay current on all the Kings of Kauffman content and news by following us on TwitterFacebook, or by way of our RSS feed.

Tags: AL Central Baseball Kansas City Royals KC Kelvin Herrera MLB Robinson Yambati Royals Yordano Ventura

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