The Royals will bring up one of the club's top prospects, righty Yordano Ventura, to start tomorrow night, the team announced via Twitter. Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star first reported yesterday (on Twitter) that Ventura could be in line for his big league debut.
Ventura continues to climb the latest top prospect lists. According to Baseball America, he rates as the game's 26th overall prospect, with his secondary offerings improving to complement a three-digit heater. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo listed the 22-year-old at number 34 after he checked in at 60th before the season. This puts him in the same realm as other young righties like Alex Meyer, Jonathan Gray, Trevor Bauer, and Jake Odorizzi, and just behind fellow KC farmhand Kyle Zimmer. As Mayo noted, the real question with Ventura is whether his change will develop enough to make him a starter, or whether he will occupy a late-inning role with his fastball and curve offerings. ESPN's Keith Law is somewhat less bullish: he left Ventura out of his pre-season top-100, though he did note him as an honorable mention on his mid-season top-50 list.
The Dominican signed with Kansas City back in 2008 for a meager $28k bonus, as the 5'11 hurler was not yet touching the 90's with his fastball and had some mechanical issues. As Baseball America's Ben Badler has explained, Ventura gained weight and cleaned up his delivery, with stellar results. Advancing quickly through the low minors, Ventura reached Double-A last year. After posting a 2.34 ERA in 57 2/3 innings at the penultimate minor league level in 2013, including 11.5 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9, Ventura earned a promotion. Over 77 innings at Triple-A, he has registered a 3.74 ERA on the back of 9.5 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. In addition to the downgrade in his K/BB ratio, Ventura also allowed significantly more hits (9.4 H/9 vs. 6.1 H/9) after moving up to Omaha.
Though Ventura was somewhat less outstanding later in the year, Kansas City apparently felt the time was right with starter Danny Duffy struggling with an injury. As Dutton explains, the team could instead have turned to Luis Mendoza or Will Smith, who have started in the past but are currently working out of the pen. As a result of the decision, the Royals will need to make a 40-man roster move to clear space. Ventura will take the hill for a crucial test against the division-rival Indians, who are among the teams that Kansas City is chasing for a Wild Card slot.