Kansas City Royals Yordano Ventura Still Enigmatic
Which Yordano Ventura will take the mound on Opening Day 2016?
As the Kansas City Royals enter Spring Training, Kings of Kauffman will release a series of articles on the 25-man roster. We will be going through each individual player, including the locks, bubble players, and prospects. We will progress through the roster from the top down, beginning with the starting rotation.
Today, we will be looking Yordano Ventura.
All statistics provided by Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Brooks Baseball
"2015 stats – 13-8, 4.08 ERA, 163.1 IP, 156 SO, 58 BB, 1.30 WHIP, 3.57 FIP2016 Steamer – 12-11, 3.51 ERA, 195 IP, 182 SO, 69 BB, 1.25 WHIP, 3.61 FIP"
Projected Role – Opening Day Starter
Calling Yordano Ventura‘s 2015 season a roller coaster would be putting it lightly. His first three starts alone were filled with enough drama to leave any Kansas City Royals fan begging for mercy.
The Royals opened 2015 with a blowout win over the White Sox that included Ventura giving the Royals six innings of one-run ball. However, it ended with Kauffman Stadium holding it’s collective breath as it watched Ventura writhing in pain on the ground, clutching his right arm.
We learned quickly that it was just a cramp, and Royals fans could breath again.
In Ventura’s next start, he stifled the Angels by striking out 7 in 5.2 innings, but inexplicably stared down Mike Trout after he scored, clearing the benches. Soon there after, Royals fans again were forced to hold their collective breath as Ventura writhed in pain in front of the mound, clutching his knee area.
But again, it was just a cramp.
In his next start, Ventura kept the Athletics hit-less through three innings, before giving up a five spot in the fourth, capped off by a three-run Josh Reddick home run.
More from KC Royals News
- KC Royals Free Agent Hunt: 3 Tampa Bay pitchers
- Grading the 2022 KC Royals: The $25 million man
- KC Royals Winter Meetings Tracker: Expectations met
- KC Royals Winter Meetings Tracker: Day 3 update
- KC Royals Winter Meetings Tracker: Day 2 update
Ventura hit Brett Lawrie with a fastball the very next at bat, who had slid hard into Alcides Escobar the night before, and was ejected after just 3.1 innings.
Including those three starts, Ventura logged a 5.19 ERA over his first 76.1 IP before being demoted to Triple-A Omaha on July 22. However, a Jason Vargas injury would lead to Ventura’s promotion, and followed by, arguably, the best stretch of Ventura’s career.
After his promotion, promptly gave up 11 runs in his first 12 innings, before posting a 2.38 ERA in his final 11 starts. During that stretch, Ventura struck out 81 in just 68 innings, as well as giving up just three homers. Ventura also saw a nice velocity jump from his first 15 starts, going from 95.8 on his fastball to 96.8.
The Ventura that Kansas City Royals fans saw in the last third of the 2015 season is the Ventura they saw in 2014, when he finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting.
So will we see that Ventura in 2016? Or the one that posted a 5.19 ERA in his first 14 starts? I would expect a little bit of both.
With Ventura already having two full seasons under his belt and nine postseason starts under his belt, it’s easy to forget that he’s still only 25. The league forced him to adjust, when they started hitting his fastball, something they couldn’t do in 2014. As a result, he threw 237 more offspeed pitches in 2015, while throwing 726 fewer fastballs.
This is nothing new, especially for a guy with his skill set. Major league hitters can hit an 80-grade fastball. They do it a lot less effectively when the pitcher is changing speeds, something that Ventura had likely never been forced to do in his life up until that point, let alone at the major league level.
I also think that we saw a little bit of dead arm from Yordano. Before throwing 183 innings in 2014, Ventura had never thrown more than 134 innings in a full season. Including his 25 postseason innings, Ventura threw 208 innings in 2014, a work load that his 180 pound frame had never encountered.
Here is Ventura’s average velocity for every month of his career.
There was a definite dip in velocity from 2014 to 2015. This was most evident in game three of the World Series when Noah Syndergaard (70 grade fastball) was routinely hitting triple digits while Ventura (80 grade fastball) averaged just 94 MPH on his fastball.
As for 2016, if that chart was Edinson Volquez‘s, I’d be worried.
However, Ventura is still just a skinny, 25-year old with an 80-grade fastball.
So to be clear, I am not worried about Ventura’s arm. In fact, I full anticipate Ventura’s peak velocity to return (at some point), while I also anticipate pitches like the one below becoming a more regular happening.
With Ventura, it’s going to be a waiting game more than anything.
Waiting on the results to catch up with his stuff.
That doesn’t always happen, but we’ve already seen it with Ventura in 2013.
The Ventura we saw at the end of 2015 was probably the best we had seen thus far.
If that carries over into 2016, he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.