At a certain point in 2010, rarely would someone mention Yordano Ventura without also mentioning Robinson Yambati. Both were signed out of the Domincan Republic in 2008. Both pitched well in the Dominican Summer League in 2009. At the end of 2010, Ventura and Yambati were second and third respectively in Baseball America’s rankings of Arizona Rookie League prospects.
In 2011, the two started to separate.
We’ve already discussed Yambati’s disastrous 2011 season. Ventura fared much better in low A Kane County this year.
At 5’11″ and maybe 180 pounds (if he’s lucky), Ventura wouldn’t seem intimidating. Yet, despite his smaller stature, he gets his fastball up into the mid-90s and he’s made strides with his changeup and curveball after instructional league work and through 2011.
There are whispers of comparisons to Pedro Martinez, fair or unfair. Ventura’s height has something to do with that, but he also has a consistent delivery according to scouts and has a similar arm slot to Pedro. Still, there’s work to do. Players don’t make it on comps alone.
Last year in Kane County, Ventura threw 84.1 innings, logging 88 strikeouts and walking just 24 in that time. His ERA was a respectable 4.27. Factoring in hits on balls in play and team defense, Ventura’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) adjusts to 3.54. Ventura induces enough ground balls to be effective, putting it on the ground 44% of the time last year, but also 47% in 2009 and 54% last year. As is typical of a strong pitcher at the lower levels, his HR/FB is low – just 6% last year – but it doesn’t seem like he’s going to be a homer-prone pitcher at this point (though as he goes up levels, that could always change).
Last February, I had Ventura ranked conservatively in these rankings simply because he hadn’t pitched outside of the rookie league yet and was so young. The reports of his stuff were enough to rank him but I like to see some performance most of the time. It’s safe to say that Ventura has out-performed our rankings and lived up to the hype.
Ventura is similar to Kane County teammate Jason Adam in that both pitched well at a relatively high level for their age and experience. The time – and success – they had in the Midwest League bodes well for their future stock. Ventura has a lot of upside and was dominant in a few starts this season, including a 10 strikeout two-hit outing just two days before his 20th birthday. He still has a ways to go, but Yordano Ventura is one of the organization’s best pitching prospects, especially at the lower levels of the minors.