Royals Turn To Ventura

The Royals’ suffering is well-documented. Before this year, they hadn’t posted a winning record or contended into September since 2003. They enter today just 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, the closest they’ve been to a postseason berth this late in a season since they won the American League West (and eventually the World Series) in 1985.

Because Kansas City is contending, its fans and us prospect watchers get a treat. The Royals have called up righthander Yordano Ventura,  one of the hardest-throwing starting pitchers in baseball. He’ll start tonight against the Indians.

Though he’s only 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Ventura regularly works in the upper 90s and can run his fastball up to 102 mph. That’s a far cry from the mid-80s heater he showed when he signed out of the Dominican Republic for a mere $28,000 in 2008. He generates his velocity with an incredibly quick arm, and he has earned the nickname “Lil’ Pedro” because of his size and fastball.

Ventura also has improved the consistency of his curveball, which can be an out pitch at times. He’s still working on his changeup and command but has the upside of a No. 2 starter. Splitting the season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, he went 8-6, 3.14 with a 155-53 K-BB ratio in 134 2/3 innings.

He also added a strong start in the Pacific Coast League playoffs, running his innings total to 140 2/3 as the Storm Chasers won the championship. That’s 31 1/3 more than his previous career high. If the Royals weren’t contending, they likely wouldn’t have called him up because of his workload, age (22) and the lack of any reason to add him to the 40-man roster or start his service-time clock ticking at this point.

But Kansas City is making a push for the playoffs, so we’ll get an earlier look at Ventura than we would have otherwise. And after having trouble developing rotation help, the Royals may have a pair of frontline starters on their hands in the near future in Kyle Zimmer and Ventura.

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