As the Royals begin their first of six series against the Twins, Miguel Sano will be looming.
Friday: RHP Ervin Santana (0-0, 0.00 ERA) v. RHP Yordano Ventura (0-0, -.– ERA); 7:15 PM CT, Kauffman Stadium
Game one of the three game set will feature former Royals pitcher Ervin “Magic” Santana, who was part of the 2013 Royals team that really got this whole winning train rolling. Him and James Shields combined for a 3.20 ERA over 439.1 innings of work on a team that gave Kansas City it’s first winning season since 2013.
He transitioned over to Atlanta in 2014, before being given a four-year, $54 million contract by the Twins, to help stabilize a broken rotation (featuring a four-year, $49 million contract going Ricky Nolasco’s way. Ouch.)
Royals fans will see a very similar pitcher to that of 2013, with Santana running with the same fastball/slider/changeup repertoire. The only difference being that he has systematically began making his changeup a featured pitch since he threw it a career low 3.2% of the time in 2011.
As for what Royals fans will see from Yordano Ventura? Who the heck knows.
It’s important for Royals fans to keep in mind that Ventura is still just 25, and with the departure of Shields after 2014, was thrust into a role that he probably wasn’t quite ready for.
So there will be some growing pains. However, the presence of Edinson Volquez and Ian Kennedy will help to defray some of that pressure, especially if they both pitch well and, more importantly, gobble up innings.
What we do know is that Ventura has top-shelf stuff. We saw this down the stretch last season, with him posting a 2.38 ERA over his last eight starts, while striking out 81 over just 68 innings.
I think this one is pretty easy, and may be the easiest of the season.
Ventura v. Sano.
What’s not to like? 98-101 vs. 80-grade raw power, with a combined age (46) just five years older than Derek Jeter (41).
Thus far, the matchup has been as polarizing as it has been dead even, with Sano going 0-3 with three strikeouts against Ventura in 2015, but also walking three times.
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Saturday: LHP Tommy Milone (0-0, -.–ERA) v. RHP Ian Kennedy (0-0, -.– ERA); 6:15 PM CT, Kauffman Stadium
As a Royals fan myself, I was really happy to start this preview and see names like Milone and Nolasco in my MLB AtBat game previews, rather than Harvey and Syndergaard.
However, Milone started more games (5) against the Royals last season than any other team and kind of had their number. His season ERA hovered around 3.90, while his ERA when pitching against the Royals fell to around 3.30.
On the other side, newly signed Royals starter Ian Kennedy will make his Royals debut, at Kauffman Stadium no less, against a team that he has only face one time over the past two seasons.
This Twins team is a little different than the one he faced back in 2014.
You’re going to be hard pressed to find a game that the Twins participate in that Miguel Sano is not the marquee matchup. He was in our first game, and with a guy on the mound with a tendency to strike out a lot of hitters and give up a lot of homers, Kennedy v. Sano will definitely be television that you won’t want to miss.
For the Royals, Lorenzo is 6-11 for his career against Milone with three extra-base hits.
Sunday: RHP Ricky Nolasco (0-0, -.– ERA) v. RHP Edinson Volquez (1-0, 0,00 ERA) 1:15 PM CT, Kauffman Stadium
It’s really hard for me not to get excited to see Ricky Nolasco’s name up there, especially with Edinson Volquez opposite him.
Nolasco was rewarded with a big contract after a successful stretch run with the Dodgers back in 2013.
Since then, he has posted a 6.06 ERA over 196.1 innings in Minnesota, including this shellacking in his last start of 2015, which happened to be against the Royals.
He will be opposed by Edinson Volquez, who despite the doubters of his 2014 season, has somehow consistently thrown strikes in Kansas City and shown us that he has some of the filthiest stuff of any earthlings.
“Sure, but that was the playoffs. We didn’t see that in the regular season.”
Well, yeah. I thought that too. Until he came out opening night throwing a 97 MPH sinker.
Needless to say, I’m excited about what Eddie is going to do in 2016. I’d be really surprised if he threw 200-innings again, but wouldn’t be all to surprised if we saw his strikeouts and fWAR jump a little bit.
For Sunday afternoon, the advantage is definitely in the Royals favor. Nolasco has been about as bad as any starting pitcher over the last two years and Volquez is, against all reason, at peak-Ed.
Volquez v. Sano. Who would have thought. This is shaping up to be a really fun series, with two of the starters against Sano having electric stuff (Ventura and Volquez), while the other being inclined to either strike him out or giving a fan in the Sonic seats a souvenir (Kennedy).
Volquez is a pretty tough matchup for Sano, probably his toughest of the weekend. Volquez feature pitch is that sinker/two-seam fastball that dives at the feet of right handers, alongside that changeup that does virtually the same thing.
Both pitches induce a higher than average number of groundballs, with the latter drawing more swing and misses than any of his other pitches.
Sano hit the ball on the ground in only 33% of his 2015 at-bats, and when he hit it in the air, it went over the fence 26.5% of the time.
If Volquez does his thing, advantage Ed. However, Sano only needs one mistake to turn a game on it’s head.