Spring training numbers are generally meaningless. Obviously you’d rather someone hit well or pitch well, but many veterans are working on specific things or just getting back in gear, so they aren’t worried as much about the numbers (results) as much as the preparation.
But some of the fun of spring training is seeing the players who are just getting a look, even if it’s understood that they’ll end up in minor league camp when it’s all over. Today’s fun young player is Yordano Ventura.
We’ve mentioned Ventura enough here and he’s landed in many top 100 overall prospect rankings over the last few months. By now, he should be well-known among most Royals fans who pay even slight attention to the minor leagues. The Royals hinted that they hoped he could reach the majors in 2013, even if just in September. It seemed ambitious considering Ventura had only made six starts at Double A last year.
This spring, though, he’s showing the Royals that it might not be a crazy idea after all. On Saturday, Ventura stepped in for Wade Davis and threw three innings, striking out three and giving up no hits. He did walk two, but he was impressive according to those in attendance. He’s got the upper-90s fastball of course, but his offspeed pitches are developing as well.
Through three games this spring, Ventura has thrown 8.2 innings, struck out six and the two walks from yesterday are the only he’s surrendered. The one blemish on his line is the two-run homer he gave up to Nelson Cruz in the Royals first spring game. After Saturday’s game, Ned Yost raved about Ventura to the point that he couldn’t bring him up without chuckling a little bit. The home plate umpire apparently called him “some kind of nasty”. Ventura’s fastball has averaged 99 mph in games when the stadium has Pitch f/x installed (not all spring stadiums do so there isn’t data every time on pitch counts or average velocity). He’s also got a good changeup and curveball. Giants manager said he had the best arm his team had seen this spring.
He’s in line to start back in Double A, according to J.J. Picollo, but there’s a chance that he could get to Triple A instead to start the year, or at least very quickly into 2013. There seem to have been some sort of discussion about moving him through more quickly. Then there’s the consideration his role – will he start or relieve? He’s a better prospect as a starter but could probably move up the ladder faster as a reliever. Patience, in this case, is the right way to go. Let him fail as a starter before moving him to the bullpen, I say. Ideally, then, he doesn’t fail as a starter. They say he’s put on some weight and seem to believe that he’ll be able to hold up as a starter.
What’s most impressive about his spring run so far, though, is that he’s done so against true competition. I brought up Baseball-Reference’s Opposition Quality and how it relates to spring stats. Ventura’s OppQual is 9.6, so nearly all batters he’s face were in the big leagues last year. And he’s cruising.
The Royals have had a lot of promising minor league pitchers in the past few years and many haven’t panned out. This could still be Ventura’s fate, but from what he’s shown so far, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about him.