Last season, Miami’s Jose Fernandez burst onto the scene by dominating the National League. At the start of spring training no one even expected him to make the roster, but he went on to easily win the NL Rookie of the Year award. This year’s Jose Fernandez lies in Kansas City. Yordano Ventura has earned the role in the Royals rotation this season, and has the arsenal to be one of the best Royal pitchers and one of the best in baseball by season’s end.
Before the start of last season, MLB.com rated the 22 year old pitcher as the 60th best prospect in baseball. By season’s end, he had moved up to be the 35th best prospect and the second best Royal prospect. This season, Ventura begins the year as the 14th best prospect by Baseballprospectus.com.
His career began at the age of 18, after signing as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, and he quickly moved up the minor league ranks. In just five years the young Royals farmhand was pitching in Kansas City. He rose so quickly because of his fantastic strikeout ability and his outstanding minor league seasons. Through these five seasons, Ventura went an unimpressive 20-23, but he put up a 3.47 ERA and struck out an extraordinary 9.9 batters per nine innings.
Last season may have been his most impressive. While he started the year in AA Northwestern Arkansas, Ventura was promoted to AAA Omaha after 11 dazzling starts and continued to pitch strong after his AAA debut. His minor league season ended with a 3.14 ERA and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He was so dominant that he even earned a late season promotion to help the Royals’ unsuccessful push for the final AL Wild Card spots.
In his call-up, confidence was built that he could be a very successful pitcher for the 2014 season. His first two starts were nearly identical as he went 5.2 innings and gave up just one run. He has continued to show that he is a deserving top prospect this spring. Through his first four starts he has posted a 1.76 ERA and batters have hit just .185 off of him. He has gotten better with each start, having his best on March 17th vs. the Chicago Cubs, where he shut them out through six innings and struck out six.
With the loss of Ervin Santana to free agency, the Royals need someone to step in and succeed right away if they hope to end their long playoff drought. Ventura is ready to be an instant success. His blazing fastball that often touches 100 is sure to send plenty of hitters back to the dugout this season. Last season, Jose Fernandez stepped in excelled from day one. Ventura’s tremendous skill should set him up for a monster season and give him the inside track to be the AL’s Rookie of the Year by season’s end.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference