Royals ready to unleash top prospect Yordano Ventura in 2014
When developing a pitching prospect, MLB teams have to be careful with how much they use their young hurlers. The overuse of a young arm can result in major injuries that significantly set back a player's career.
In 2013, the Kansas City Royals were prudent in their use of Yordano Ventura, who is considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. The 22-year-old is the Royal's No. 2 overall prospect, ranking behind just Kyle Zimmer (the fifth overall pick in 2012), according to MLB.com.
Ventura pitched 150 innings last year, most of which came in the minor leagues. It was Ventura's fifth season in the Royals' system. The inning total was by far the most of his young career, but the Royals are now ready to give Ventura an even heavier workload.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore told the Kansas City Star on Monday that the team is ready to let Ventura throw 200 innings this season.
The news certainly makes things interesting in Royals spring training, as Ventura can be an extremely exciting pitcher when he has his stuff going. The Dominican born pitcher has a lethal fastball that is constantly in the upper-90's, while his curveball has a vicious break to it, making for an often unhittable one-two combination.
The big knock on Ventura is that he is too small (5'11'') to be a starter. The Royals, however, gave him a chance to start in the Majors last season, and Ventura certainly held his own with a 3.52 ERA across three starts (15.1 innings).
The right-handed hurler will be given every chance to lock up the fifth spot in the Royals' rotation this season, and if he does, the Royals will use him with virtually no limitations (only 16 pitchers hit the 200 innings mark in 2013).
If Ventura doesn't earn a spot in the rotation, we may see him come out of the bullpen. Many feel that Ventura's ceiling is becoming a closer, a role in which he could potentially be dominant. Of course, with Greg Holland locking down the ninth inning and Luke Hochevar having dominated in his first year as a reliever, Ventura would not take on a very important role in the bullpen. The Royals could opt to let him work as a starter in the minors if he misses out on a big league rotation spot.
If he makes the Royals as a starter, Ventura will be fun to watch, and he'll be worth owning in all fantasy leagues. The youngster has shown plenty of promise throughout his years in the minors, and even stifled some big league bats in 2013.