Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!
In last week’s Prospect Smackdown, we saw Francisco Lindor earn a narrow Christmas victory over Chris Owings in a battle of fantasy shortstop prospects. In our inaugural edition of this series, we saw Billy Hamilton crush Adam Eaton when it comes to 2014 steals.
This week, we’ll send 2013 out on a high note by taking a look at two of the more electric young arms poised to make an impact in 2014. We have fastballs. We have #want. We have filth. We just don’t have size.
But, just like I tell myself every night, that doesn’t always matter.
Prospect Smackdown No. 3 – Who will be more valuable in 2014: Yordano Ventura vs. Carlos Martinez
The case for Ventura
His stuff gives us all #rig (especially Craig) and when it comes down to pure quality of his different pitches, it’s hard to argue against Ventura. Baseball Prospectus recently put an 80 on his fastball, which has retained elite velocity even as Ventura’s workload has become heavier. With a plus curveball and developing but potentially plus change-up, too, Ventura could have a filthy three-pitch arsenal that will blow away bad hitters and challenge good ones.
Ventura ended 2013 in the majors, yet there’s a pretty good chance he’ll begin 2014 in Triple-A. That being said, with only James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas seemingly guaranteed rotation spots next season, Ventura should have ample opportunity to earn MLB playing time. Danny Duffy, Wade Davis and Chris Dwyer are probably his biggest sources of competition, so I like Ventura’s odds.
The case against Ventura
Ventura is just 5’11″, 180 lbs, which is a big reason why so many have projected his long-term role as a closer. We’ve seen a number of shorter pitchers come up and defy the reliever stereotype lately, but it’s still fair to cite Ventura’s size as cause for concern. The 22-year-old has also never thrown more than 140 innings in a season, and it’s possible the Royals aren’t going to want to stretch him all the way to 200-plus in 2014.
Ventura’s control isn’t as refined as his arsenal at this point, leading to potentially high WHIP and HR/9 totals. And, as mentioned above, Ventura is not guaranteed a spot on the MLB roster in 2014 and faces some pressure behind him from Kyle Zimmer as well. All that being said, I don’t view Ventura as a likely bullpen candidate anymore given the quality of Kansas City’s relievers and their dearth of starting talent.
The case for Martinez
Martinez finished last season as a key component in St. Louis’ bullpen, and while the 5.08 ERA he produced in 21 MLB innings may be ugly, his 3.08 FIP suggests that better days lie ahead. Martinez has been a prospect darling for a while, and you don’t have to watch him very often to see why. His stuff is filthy, he has some of the easiest and most impressive arm action you’ll ever see on a prospect and he’s taken steps towards refining his command.
Unfortunately for Martinez owners, the Cardinals are stacked when it comes to young pitching, meaning Martinez is likely to be used in the bullpen for now. The plus side there is that Martinez should spend the majority of 2014 in the majors, forming a lethal 1-2 combo in the back of the Cards’ bullpen with Trevor Rosenthal. He is the rare non-closer reliever who is worth a look even in shallower mixed leagues, as the promise of high strikeout totals with a low ERA will attract many owners.
The case against Martinez
Martinez’ biggest blessing is also his biggest curse – he’ll probably see plenty of time in 2014 as a reliever … but it will be as a reliever. Rosenthal would have to implode in a big way or be injured for Martinez to have a shot at closing, and given Martinez’ somewhat pedestrian strikeout percentages over the past few seasons, it makes sense to take a wait-and-see approach with him rather than scoop him up because of name value.
Like Ventura, there’s also a matter of size for Martinez. He’s just 6′, 185 lbs, and some have pegged him as a reliever from the get-go. Unlike Ventura, Martinez also has a history of arm injuries, and he’s yet to surpass 110 innings in a season. All those factors may conspire to keep Martinez in the bullpen long-term, though there’s a non-zero possibility the Cardinals start Martinez back in the minors as a starter.