Yordano Ventura: Starting Small
The main concern I have heard for Yordano Ventura’s long-term starting potential is size. Last year he was listed somewhere around 140 pounds everywhere. Lately that is not the case, and we will get to that, how big a starting pitcher needs to be, and Yordano’s prospects of being in this rotation in the near and distant future.
Only 303 seasons come back from Baseball-Reference (BR) if you look at pitcher seasons from 1901 to 2013 where a starter went 150 innings or more at a weight at or below 160 pounds. How accurate the weight of the pitchers is, especially going back that far, is highly questionable, but that shows just how rare small starters are. It has become even rare over time, and only 6 of those seasons have happened from 2000 until now, or only once every couple of years.
Last year 99 starting pitchers went 150+ innings according to BR. The average weight of these 99 was 216.5 pounds, and the smallest was Tim Lincecum at 170 pounds. In the current era starting pitchers are big. Tall tends to be related to velocity, and big is associated with durability. That has made projections of Ventura ending up in the bullpen fairly common. Can the Royals really expect to start this youngster in the bigs, or is he just too little?
The good news is that Yordano does not seem to be as small this year. I had heard reports that he had gained some weight, and now Fangraphs and BR have him listed at 178 and 180 pounds respectively. Other places still have him significantly below this (Scoutingbook.com at 150), but it looks like he has gained something. If it was 40 pounds it raises fitness questions that I would love someone who can get to a minor league game of his to answer (or it raises PED questions in this day and age). That amount would take him out of small, and quickly into a weight range that is appropriate for a 5’11’’ frame. His velocity is still huge, and reports of 102 MPH were given during the spring. Yes, this would still put Yordano significantly below average for a starter as far as weight goes, but there are several sub-200 pound starters that have had success recently such as the aforementioned Lincecum, Wandy Rodriguez, and Cole Hamels.
If true, this weight gain should raise Yordano’s stock as a prospect. Being able to start instead of relieve would be a huge boon to his overall value. How quickly he can move to Omaha and start knocking on the door remains to be seen, but I would love to see a power arm like that in this rotation in the next couple of years.