After eleven starts and a 2.34 ERA for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, right-handed pitcher Yordano Ventura will be getting a promotion to Triple A Omaha. The first whispers started on Saturday night and continued into Sunday before an official announcement by the Royals.
Coming into 2013, Ventura still had some questions surrounding him. Questions about his size will always be there. Then, when his strikeout and walk ratios dipped after a promotion to Double A last season, there were slight questions about how he’d perform starting the year there.
But he had a great spring with the Royals in Surprise and talk shifted to asking if he might make it to Kansas City this year.
His first step was Double A, where he returned to Northwest Arkansas as arguably the Royals top pitching prospect. From there, he dominated nearly every time out including a three start stretch where he gave up no runs in 16 innings, struck out 24 batters, and only allowed 13 baserunners.
His performance has been steady, and he’s increased his pitch count as the season has progressed, so the Royals still clearly believe he can start (and are willing to continue to let him start until it starts to look like he can’t). He’s had one rough start in 2013, a 4.1 inning start in which he gave up seven runs (with six earned). It was the only start this year in which he gave up more than four hits.
He responded by throwing eight innings, striking out eight and walking none. He was still hitting triple digits even that late in the game and his curveball and changeup were strong as well according to one scout who talked with Danny Knobler of CBS Sports:
One scout on Royals prospect Yordano Ventura: 98-101 mph, still throwing 101 in 8th inning. plus curveball and change. “Quite impressive.”
— Danny Knobler (@DannyKnoblerCBS) May 28, 2013
For an organization that has struggled to develop pitchers who have reached the majors as strong starters, Ventura represents the new best hope for a true top-notch starter that didn’t have to be acquired from outside the system. Danny Duffy still has a shot in the near future once he gets back from rehabbing and others like John Lamb and Kyle Zimmer could be on the way (though Lamb’s velocity hasn’t come back entirely and Zimmer has struggled).
Duffy, by the way, is the only Royals starting pitcher to appear for Kansas City who was drafted by Dayton Moore (if you believe that he didn’t have a hand in the 2006 draft shortly after he’d been hired – otherwise you can also count Everett Teaford and Luke Hochevar). Ventura would be a nice second starter to make it up.
First, he’ll have to show he can carry his success over to Omaha. He’s definitely ready for the opportunity.