Hot Hot Heat: Yordano Ventura
I originally planned to write a post about Wilson Ramos, so for all of you that are desperately seeking
Susan Wilson Ramos articles, I’m so very sorry. I’m sorry because while Ramos’ season absolutely deserves attention and there is a good chance he outproduces today’s subject in fantasy leagues next year… DID YOU SEE WHAT YORDANO DID LAST NIGHT? I mean, talk about an entrance. Ventura spun 5.2 innings of one run baseball, featuring very few well struck balls, three strikeouts, two walks, six (SIX) pitches 100 MPH or above, professional quality hat tilt, and innumerable lotions and towels (mine, not his).
If anyone has been reading me for pretty much any length of time, you’ll be aware that I have a massive personal bias towards short pitchers with big velocity. If they’re Dominican, well, that’s a bonus for me, I guess. It’s not something I try to look for, but I’ve always had an affinity towards these guys. So when I first heard about Ventura a few years back, I was obviously intrigued. Intrigued enough by the reports to burn a 4th round pick on him in my 20-team dynasty mixed league (somewhere around the 70th MiLB pick of that season). Since then I’ve been personally invested in his development, attending a Hi-A game last year that he started, monitoring the development of his curveball (and it has made some serious improvements) and change up, since there wasn’t much to worry about in the fastball department. Well, Ventura displayed exactly how far he and his arsenal have come since signing for $28,000 as a teenager with a mid-80s fastball.
Back to last night, here is the relevant information courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net:
Just enjoy that for a while. Enjoy that Ventura, in his debut, threw the hardest pitch by a starting pitcher in the PitchFX era (regular season). Enjoy that, while he didn’t tally a bunch of strikeouts, or even induce a ton of whiffs, Ventura absolutely froze Jason Kipnis in the first inning:
He also showed that he can throw hard AND move the ball with this gem:
*GIF courtesy of SB NATION MLB/Marc Normandin
But as much as I could go on about last night (and I could go on), the question for dynasty leaguers is: What do I do with Ventura? There’s a ton of hype around the kid right now, and while we generally warn you about the pitfalls of small sample size, I actually think that what Ventura did last on Tuesday night, and what he’ll do on Monday (his next scheduled start) are incredibly important to his fantasy value. You see, at 5’11/180 lbs, Ventura fights an uphill battle against stereotypes that sub 6′ pitchers can’t handle a 200+ IP workload. So any starts that he receives from the Royals are auditions. Add in that those starts are being made amidst a playoff push and a playoff atmosphere? They matter more. Perhaps most importantly, those starts are being made on top of the biggest minor league workload of Ventura’s career. Every inning he throws represents are new career high, so if he continues to average 97-98 MPH per start, at the tail end of a career high workload, it might give credence to the idea that Ventura can indeed withstand a full season’s worth of innings at the major league level. Small sample size or not, it’s likely that decisions that affect Ventura’s value going forward are being made based in part on these two late season starts.
The best advice one can give regarding Ventura is to keep on top of how he’s being talked about in the offseason. My personal belief is that Ventura can throw the 200+ innings he needs to in a starting rotation and develop into a #2 or 3 starter. But what I think doesn’t matter as much as Royals management, and if they end up squeezing him out of the rotation, he may well come up as a reliever and be so good at it that he never leaves the occupation. So when it comes to value, there are a few options. You can sell high on Ventura because his height and history are against him, and it’s likely he’ll have a fair amount of buzz on him in the offseason. Or you can hold on and hope that he justifies the “Pedro-like” comments, because whatever you get over the offseason will likely have the risk that he doesn’t start built into it’s valuation, and thus not justify Ventura’s full value if he does indeed become a starter.
As for me, I am a believer in the skillset while being concerned by the situation. The pluses are that Ervin Santana is likely to leave in free agency, and the Royals would probably prefer to replace him internally. With Danny Duffy continuing to struggle staying healthy, there appears to be room for Ventura in the rotation. That said, he’s going to end up with under 150 innings pitched this year and so a innings limit is likely for 2014. Add in a lack of efficiency with his pitches and there will be some issues with wins going forward. I’d advise against acquiring or counting on Ventura for a large impact in 2014, but he is an impact talent. If your designs on glory are more towards the 2015 and beyond range, consider Ventura now, before he goes and shoves at the major league level for half a season or more.