Sep 17, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura (30) delivers a pitch in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Projecting the Royals Fifth Starter

Aug 12, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Luke Hochevar (44) delivers a pitch in the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

As of right now, there are few questions about the Royals heading into Spring Training. Ned Yost has already named his lineup, and the first four starters are pretty much set at this point. James Shields is once again going to front the rotation, with Jason Vargas expected to slide in as the Royals second starter. Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen are going to be the third and fourth starters, leaving the fifth spot in an open competition.

Right now, that appears to be a five way battle. Wade Davis, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Luke Hochevar and Brad Penny. Each candidate has something different that they bring to the table. Ventura and Duffy bring potential upside to the rotation, which it is sorely lacking. Penny brings another experienced arm, but has been out of baseball for a year and is trying to work his way back. Davis and Hochevar have been failures as starting pitchers previously in their careers, so this may be their last chance to prove that they can perform in that type of a role.

Penny is an extreme long shot, so it is probably safe to eliminate him from contention. Davis has proven on several different occasions to be far more effective as a reliever, so that is likely the best role for him on the Royals. However, his salary is far more than any team would willingly pay for a middle reliever, so the Royals may be inclined to attempt to shoehorn Davis into the rotation yet again. Hopefully, the Yost does not suffer from amnesia, and remembers the general disaster that Davis is as a starter.

That leaves Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and Luke Hochevar. Duffy, despite his experience as a starter, had all of eight starts at the AAA level prior to being added to the rotation in 2011. Duffy has also struggled once he has gotten past the second inning, so it may be possible that he could use some time in Omaha to work on pitching deeper into games.

Now the decision is between Hochevar and Ventura. Hochevar completely reinvented himself in relief last season, virtually eliminating his sinker by the end of the 2013 campaign. Primarily using a fastball and cutter with the occasional curve, Hochevar was a revelation in the bullpen. The biggest question is whether or not he could carry that success over to the rotation. Ventura, meanwhile, is considered by some to need to work on his secondary pitches and does have the specter of the arbitration clock starting early. Yet, Ventura likely has more upside than any of the other candidates. For a team that is looking to win now, would it not be best to start the player that could do the most to achieve that goal?

Yordano Ventura has already been told to go into Spring Training as though he has a spot in the rotation locked up. With the most upside of the candidates, it would make sense to start him in the rotation at the beginning of the season. He certainly looked as though he may be ready last year, performing admirably despite being thrown into the midst of a postseason charge. For a team that wants to win, the Royals may be best served to see if Ventura is truly able to take that fifth starter spot.

What do you all think? Who would you tab to be the Royals fifth starter this season?

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Tags: Kansas City Royals Luke Hochevar Yordano Ventura

  • jessanders

    I hate that anyone but Shields and maybe Vargas are guaranteed spots.

    What if Penny really IS a bounce back, and Ventura has an amazing ST? What do you do then? Move Guthrie to long relief? Not likely on the money he’s making.

    The problem is that the Royals have too much #4/#5/#6 starting depth, and not enough front of the rotation depth (none, but Shields, who is either a low end #1 or high end #2).

    I could see a rotation of Shields, Vargas, Penny, Duffy, Ventura being as likely to compete (if not more) as a rotation of Shields, Vargas, Guthrie, Chen, Davis.

    And that’s really the problem.

    • Royals_Fan

      Penny isn’t going to be a starter this year for the Royals. Davis won’t be a starter. Hoch won’t be a starter. Chen has to be a swing man pitcher this year for Ventura. The line up will be Shields, Vargas, Guthrie, Duffy, Chen to start the year and at some point between now and the end of the ASB Ventura will come up and Chen will move to the BP. Then the rotation will be Shields, Vargas, Guthrie, Duffy and Ventura.

      I doubt Penny lasts the who year with the team or even makes it to the majors.

    • jimfetterolf

      As I recall, Shields came in at #13 on fangraphs pitching leaderboard, makes him a top half #1. Santana, with his 3.0fW was a high #2. Agree that Guthrie and Vargas are more #4-5 types, but 200 innings of less than 3 runs per start has some serious value.

    • cardsfanatik

      i agree, and i think that if Ventura comes out lights out in spring, it should be damned the Arbitration clock, and put him in the rotation.

  • jimfetterolf

    At the moment Hochevar, as he has comparable stuff to the kids, has proven ceiling in the majors, and apparently has fixed his problems pitching with runners on base. Of course, I don’t really believe Ned Yost that Bruce Chen is a lock for the rotation, instead think he’ll be a swing man like last year as various pitchers are tried in the 5-slot, so see two openings for the five hot arms to compete for.

    If Duffy locks in his release point for the curve he’s my #2 out of the gate based on lefty, experience at facing a Verlander and beating him, and hot stuff. Before his injury Duffy had a slider and cutter in addition to his other three pitches, so has the arsenal.

    Wade Davis knows what his problem is. If he shows in ST that he can stay within himself and keep consistent mechanics he’s in the mix, another hot arm who has showed in some games what he is capable of.

    On Ventura, I think service time will decide it, Royals will run into some nasty arbitration numbers in the future, so will be well served by delaying Ventura. Allowing him to polish a 3rd pitch at Omaha is another reason. It will also keep his innings relatively low so he’ll be available for the playoffs.

    • cardsfanatik

      For the Royal’s sake, I hope Hochsucker goes nowhere near the rotation. He has had enough years to prove he doesn’t have what it takes as a starter. His value is in the BP. Where I do think he adds value, but he can’t be a 2 pitch pitcher in a rotation. He will start getting hammered the second and third times around. Period. The best thing the Royals could do, if they don’t want to start the season with Duffy, Ventura, is to resign a Santana, but even better would be a Burnett on a one year deal, trade Davis, and maybe even Hochevar, and if they trade Boni, thats most of Burnetts salary anyway.