Yordano Ventura: Buy Or Sell?
Entering the season, question marks surrounded Royals rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura. At 5-foot-11, could the diminutive righty channel Pedro Martinez and sustain the workload of a Major League starter? Would added innings affect the velocity of Ventura’s prodigious fastball? He answered by logging over 175 innings and maintaining the highest fastball velocity amongst all qualified starters. Now in the wild card round against the Los Angeles Angels, is the Royals’ prized rookie destined for greatness? Or should fantasy owners cash in on a fine debut campaign?
Yordano Ventura’s stuff is mouth-watering. The fastball has earned a bevy of attention, and rightfully so. The pitch explodes out of his hand, averaging 98.27 mph and the right-hander maintains velocity deep into games. Beyond the four-seamer, Ventura’s five-pitch mix includes a sinker, change-up, curveball, and cutter. From a longevity perspective, it’s wise to look for a high rate of fastballs and change-ups and Ventura doesn’t disappoint. In 2014, Ventura threw a high percentage of four-seam fastballs (43.04%), sinkers (20.76%), and change-ups (14.24%), easily crossing a 70% threshold we look for.
With two consecutive seasons with 150-plus innings, concerns about the Dominican’s ability to sustain velocity and stay in the rotation (rather than serve as Greg Holland’s understudy) are subsiding. However, pointing to the 14 wins and 3.20 ERA is a disservice to Ventura’s opportunities for improvement. ROTOscouting employs a rule of thumb for pitchers when considering starters: a 7.0+ K/9, a sub-3.0 BB/9, and a GB rate greater than 50%. The 23-year old racked up 7.82 K/9 (check), 3.39 BB/9 (not too far off), and 47.6% GB rate (pretty close).
So how does Ventura improve? It’s not necessarily looking at the walk rate and saying, “Throw more strikes!” Some pitchers are very skilled at setting up pitches to induce bad swings on pitches just out of the zone. And when you throw 100 mph with movement, it’s much easier to lure batters to chase. For Ventura though, it’s learning how to use pitches out of the zone more effectively. Anyone who’s seen Ventura’s curve knows it’s a weapon; he just needs to know how to use it better.
A ball nearly 43% of the time, Ventura’s curveball releases from his hand so much more differently than the fastballs, cutter and change-up. With such a high number of balls, batters can take their chances Ventura won’t throw the pitch for a strike and sit on the fastball. To take his full arsenal to the next level, Ventura needs to throw more curveballs for strikes and develop the change-up, both of which work to keep hitters honest. If successfully implemented, the strikeout rate and walk rate will respond favorably.
Owning Yordano Ventura: Using Risk to Your Advantage
So a rookie pitcher has a good-but-not great debut and shows room for improvement. Sounds normal, right? Suppose fellow top prospect, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Taijuan Walker went 14-10 in his rookie season for the Mariners. Owners would be buying hard on the young Seattle hurler. But since Ventura upside will always be in question due to to his frame, owners are leery of investing.
Use Ventura’s frame to your advantage. Despite the shorter stature, pitch usage to indicates the right-hander can remain healthy for years to come. He throws a high number of fastballs and change-ups, and nearly boasts ratios to meet our thresholds for a money-in-the-bank starting pitcher already. Trade for the young Royal and watch him tighten up the pitch sequencing, generating better results from the curveball and improving the K-rate. Swings outside the zone will result in fewer walks and Yordano Ventura can develop into a top-25 pitcher in fantasy baseball.
1 Oct 2014 / Ben Flajole /
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