The Royals’ Young Flamethrower Yordano Ventura
As a Giants’ fan foremost, I don’t make enough of an effort to follow the other 29 MLB organizations. That’s why I have been remiss in not mentioning the Kansas City Royals’ rookie fire-balling right hander Yordano Ventura sooner.
Ventura presently leading the American League with a 1.50 ERA and on either April 9th of this year or September 17th of last season, he threw the fastest pitch by a major league starter in baseball history, touching roughly 102.9 mph on the radar gun. (The record for any pitcher is Aroldis Chapman‘s 105.1 mph effort against Tony Gwynn, Jr. on September 24, 2010.)
What is worth noting also is that Ventura is not a big right-hander, at least by MLB standards. He’s currently listed as 6’0″ and 180 lbs. It seems pretty amazing that a pitcher this size could throw as hard as Ventura does, but it’s worth noting some small pitchers have thrown mighty hard in their primes. In fact, Ventura is probably about the same size as Bob Feller was before Rapid Robert went into the army at age 23 in late 1941. Ventura turns 23 in June, so the comparison of Ventura to a young Bob Feller is apt.
It appears that it took a while for Ventura to develop after the Royals signed him as an international free agent in 2008 either due to injury problems or a determination by the Royals to bring him along very slowly and carefully. His professional career really took off in 2012.
Yordano threw a 150 innings in 2013 at age 22 and only 109.1 inning the year before that, so he hasn’t been overworked, at least so far. He’s averaged exactly six innings for his five 2014 starts so far, so it appears the Royals intend to be very careful with him, not wanting to kill the golden goose and all that.
Unfortunately for Yordano, he faces some extremely stiff competition for the AL Rookie of the Year Award with foreign “major leaguers” Masahiro Tanaka (Japan’s NPB) and Jose Dariel Abreu (Cuba’s Serie Nacional) officially MLB rookies this year. However, if Yordano continues to pitch like this year’s version of Jose Fernandez, I think the sportswriters will bend over backwards to award him as the best “true” rookie.