When you can throw a fastball 100 mph people tend to notice, whether its opposing hitters, managers or fans.
When you can consistently throw over 100 mph as a starter, you are in rare company.
When pitching prospect Yordano Ventura threw a pitch recorded at 102 mph according to PitchFX, Royals fans couldn’t help but dream about Ventura taking a spot in the big league rotation.
The 22-year old phenom from the Dominican Republic turned heads in a brief stint with the Royals at the end of the 2013 season. His 97.5 average fastball according to Fangraphs was the highest among starting pitchers. In 15.1 innings with the Royals, Ventura was 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA and 11 strikeouts.
But should Ventura, who was ranked as the 35th best prospect in 2013 according to MLB.com, take a spot in the Royals’ rotation in 2014?
Right now Kansas City’s rotation projects as the following: James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy and Wade Davis. The Royals recently signed veteran Brad Penny, who will have a chance to compete for a rotation spot this spring.
Ventura projects to be a top of the rotation starter, but is he ready to bump one of the veteran starters from the rotation in 2014?
His minor league track record is very good. In five seasons in the minors he has a 20-23 record overall, with a 3.47 ERA in 415.1 innings. He has an excellent K/9 at 9.9. At Triple-A Omaha last season, Ventura went 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA and a 9.5 K/9 in 77 innings.
The top three rotation spots are very secure, with veteran pitchers who should keep their spot barring injury. But should Danny Duffy or Wade Davis struggle, Ventura could be knocking at the door.
Last year Davis was bumped from the rotation in September and he finished the season 8-11 with a 5.32 ERA. Davis should get the first shot as the number five starter, but if Ventura is pitching well in the minors, Davis could feel him nipping at his heels for his spot in the rotation.
Duffy is another young pitcher who has impressive numbers and a load of potential, but also has a bit of an injury history, including Tommy John surgery in 2012.
The Royals should start the season with Ventura in the minors. One potential concern, should a spot open up in the majors, is Ventura’s work load. His high in innings pitched came in 2013 at 134.2. So, there are questions whether he could handle a full season’s work. Even if he were to come up at some point during the season, he would likely be on some kind of innings restriction and maybe even a pitch limit in his starts.
Ventura is so young and has so much potential that it might be wise to get him more seasoning in the minors. He has room to improve with his command, after he walked 3.9 per inning in Triple-A last season.
But things happen throughout the season. Pitchers get hurt or are ineffective and rarely if ever does a team use only use five or even six starting pitchers throughout the course of a season.
Ventura needs to be ready when he gets the call and maybe Royals’ fans will get to see some serious heat this summer.