There are two schools of thought when it comes to what the Royals should do with their hole in the rotation. The first is to throw money at the problem, either in resigning Ervin Santana or by going after Ubaldo Jimenez or Matt Garza. The second is to simply slot Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura into the rotation, and let the two promising young starters hold down the last two spots in the rotation. While that option could well prove fruitful in the future, having two pitchers with a combined 34 starts in the majors may not be helpful to winning in 2014.
In fact, there are questions as to whether or not the Royals should have both pitchers in the rotation at the same time. Joel Wagler at KC Kingdom argues that the Royals should look to trade one of Duffy and Ventura, given that neither have demonstrated that they can pitch deeper into games. He raises a valid point about the bullpen being overworked if neither starter can last six innings, and the potential problems that could ensue.
Yet, there are several factors to consider when looking at either pitcher’s innings total. Danny Duffy has been injured, having dealt with Tommy John surgery, and has been brought back slowly. There was really no reason to extend him further than five innings last season, given the depth in the bullpen and his injury issues. The limited innings that he pitched in 2013 may have been more of a matter of protecting his arm instead of an inability to become a pitcher that can last deeper into games.
A similar argument could be made for Yordano Ventura. Ventura has been brought along slowly, but has seen his innings pitched increase each year. After pitching 109.1 innings in 2012, Ventura pitched a total of 150 innings across three levels, and appears to be ready to take on a bigger workload. While he is unlikely to approach 200 innings next season, Ventura could end up closer to 180 innings pitched.
The Royals also have the benefit of having three pitchers in the rotation that have proven to be innings eaters. James Shields, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie have all gone out there and taken their turn with regularity, typically pitching to the 200 inning mark. Having starters that can go out and pitch deep into games like they are able to could help mitigate any problems with the bullpen being overworked should Ventura and Duffy not develop as expected.
Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura may not have displayed the ability to pitch deep into games at this point, but that may be by design instead of an inability to go beyond five or six innings. Having two young pitchers with the potential that Duffy and Ventura have, along with the impending arrival of Kyle Zimmer, could give the Royals an excellent home grown rotation in the next couple of years.
There is no reason to part ways with either Danny Duffy or Yordano Ventura. If not this season, both can be key parts of the rotation in the near future.