How Good Can Yordano Ventura Be in 2015?
After last year's World Series, the baseball world was talking about one pitcher: Madison Bumgarner.
And that was understandable. Bumgarner was the NLCS and World Series MVP and did things no other pitcher had ever done in the postseason and, more specifically, the Fall Classic. He went 2-0 in the World Series and in 21 innings gave up one earned run, struck out 17 and walked one batter, all but saving San Francisco in Game 7 with five innings of shutout ball just three days after a complete game shutout in Game 5.
It was pretty unbelievable. But lost among Bumgarner's heroics was a pretty terrific World Series by Kansas City's Yordano Ventura. In two starts (12.1 innings) he gave up just two earned runs, struck out six and walked five, good for an ERA of 1.46. That was after a regular season in which he went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 183 innings pitched, notching 159 strikeouts and 69 walks.
Over the weekend, Ventura was doing some very nasty things in spring training.
Ventura threw seven no-hit innings at the Mariners on Friday night while striking out four and walking two. And while it was just spring training, Ventura's performance was a glimpse of the kind of pitcher he could turn into in 2015.
He has a four-seam fastball that averaged 96.0 miles per hour last year and a cutter that averaged about a mile per hour less. He also featured a changeup that sat around 86.3 miles per average on average, and you can see what that knee-buckling curveball can do.
Ventura has all the pitches and tools to be one of the American League's best. And at just 24 years old, with a full season of Major League Baseball under his belt, Ventura could make "the leap" this season. Our projections see Ventura pitching 192 innings with a 3.84 ERA and a WHIP of 1.30 in 2015, notching 142 strikeouts and 76 walks. Those are fairly conservative estimates, and I happen to think Ventura could do a lot better than that.
He's absolutely one of the best values in fantasy right now, too. ESPN's rankings, based on 5x5, 12-team leagues, has Ventura as the 43rd pitcher off the board, with an auction value of $6. If you're looking for a young pitcher with upside that can be had at a relatively cheap price, Yordano should absolutely be a target.
Of course, Ventura is not perfect. Even though his fastball has a ton of velocity, it doesn't have a lot of movement and at the lower velocities has a tendency to either get hit more frequently or fouled off. He also seems to have problems finishing hitters off sometimes, especially when he cannot control his breaking pitches.
It's strange that even though batters whiffed on 10.3% of Ventura's offerings last year (tied for 20th among qualified starters in the Majors), his strikeout percentage of 20.3% was only 37th best. With his stuff, he should be generating more strikeouts and pitching deeper into ballgames, but too many pitches in any given start seem to be wasted.
Nevertheless, the stuff is there, and perhaps a year of seasoning will help him to refine his repertoire and raise that strikeout rate. Doing so would make him a much more exciting fantasy option, and would certainly help improve his ERA, which is already decent.
Yordano Ventura has a bright future ahead of him, one that could one day see him as a true Cy Young contender -- even as soon as this season.