Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Prospect Countdown: #10 Yordano Ventura

#10 Yordano Ventura

Age: 20
Position: RHP
Height: 5-11
Weight: 160
Acquired: Signed as International Free Agent on October 8, 2008
From: Samana, Dominican Republic

There is no doubt that Dominican righty Yordano Ventura has some of the most electric stuff in the system. In fact, in a couple years time we may look back and wonder how such an awesome arm could have been so underrated. Ventura's dynamite stuff features a fastball that can hit 100 mph, while maintaining good late life, a curve that flashes plus potential, and a change up with late fade. Thanks to his arsenal, Ventura's upside could go toe to toe with any pitcher's upside in the organization. The possibility exists that one day Ventura could head a Major League rotation.

In 2011, Ventura took his talents to full season ball for the first time. He may have posted an ERA of 4.27, but make no mistake he was a dominate force on the circuit. Ventura's K/9 of 9.39 ranked 14th on the circuit, with only two of the pitchers in the top 13 being younger than him. His K:BB ratio of 3.67 ranked 19th in the Midwest League, with no pitcher ahead of him being younger.

As Rany Jazayerli has pointed out age is of the utmost importance when evaluating prospects, and when prospects are just beginning their professional careers even months are significant. In 2011, Yordano Ventura was not only one of the top starters in the Midwest League. He was one of the top starters in the Midwest League, while also being one of the youngest.

Of course if Ventura was so dominate, why was his ERA 4.27, nearly half a run higher than the Midwest League average? Well, keep in mind that Ventura's FIP came in 0.21 lower than the league mean, while his SIERA was 0.77 below the average mark. An explanation offered by Baseball America was that Ventura would often over throw in an attempt to light up the radar gun. As a result his stuff would flatten and opposing hitters would square him up more than the average pitcher. This theory is supported by an opponents line drive percentage of 20% (league average=14%).

Throwing harder when thing get tough is a common problem for young starters. Hell, Luke Hochevar has even admitted that in the past he has failed with such a tactic. Ventura is one of the most exciting prospects in the system and he has incredible breakout potential. His small frame is a bit concerning. In fact, look no further than Kelvin Herrera for an example of a potentially dominate hurler limited to the bullpen due to his frame.

Hopefully, for Kansas City Ventura can avoid the arm troubles that Herrera could not, and Ventura can develop into the front line guy that the Royals so desperately need. Ventura will have all the opportunity for an eye popping 2012 campaign with an assignment to pitcher's paradise Frawley Stadium in the Carolina League.

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