Yordano Ventura Rumors

Royals Option Yordano Ventura

The Royals have optioned young righty Yordano Ventura, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter.

Ventura, 24, established himself as one of the game’s more interesting young arms last year. He threw 183 innings of 3.20 ERA ball, with 7.8 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 and a 47.6% groundball rate. Ventura then contributed another 25 1/3 frames, with an identical earned run average, to the team’s World Series run.

That excellent campaign led Kansas City to lock him up for the foreseeable future in early April. Ventura received a five-year, $23MM guarantee while also giving the Royals two option years at $12MM apiece.

It’s been something of a different story this year, at least in terms of results. Ventura has permitted 5.19 earned per nine over the 76 1/3 innings he’s worked thus far.

His average fastball velocity is down by a decent bit, but that does not seem to explain things. The peripherals all look the same: Ventura has struck out 7.7 and walked 2.9 batters per nine while inducing grounders at a 52.0% clip, all the same or better than last year.

Indeed, Ventura’s FIP (3.69), xFIP (3.68), and SIERA (3.71) all suggest that there has been something else at play. He has allowed a .321 BABIP while carrying a 64.8% strand rate, both of which suggest a fair dose of bad luck.

Regardless, the Royals obviously felt it was time for a break from the big leagues, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggested was possible this morning on Twitter. Things certainly have taken a turn for the worse of late, as Ventura has not lasted more than five innings in a start since the end of May (while also missing time with a hand injury). He’s permitted one earned run per inning pitched over that stretch. The return of lefty Jason Vargas created the need for a rotation spot, and Ventura will head down to Triple-A to work out whatever issues the team has identified.

Reactions To Recent Starting Pitcher Extensions

Over the past week, we’ve seen multi-year deals signed by Yordano Ventura (five years, $23MM), Carlos Carrasco (four years, $22MM), Corey Kluber (five years, $38.5MM) and Rick Porcello (four years, $82.5MM). As usual, there’s been no shortage of reactions to these contracts, and here are a few reactions/opinions from around the baseball world to each of the deals…

  • Signing Ventura to a five-year deal was a necessary risk for the Royals, opines Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards. Ventura has long been seen as a risky commodity due to his smaller stature and a fear that he may be bullpen-bound, and he also produced results that were more good than great in 2014. However, only three Royals starters — Zack Greinke, James Shields and Ervin Santana –have matched Ventura’s modest 2.4 fWAR over the past five seasons. The Royals’ rotation is typically occupied by journeymen starters, and the upside for a mid-rotation or front-line starter at that price makes the risk worth taking, writes Edwards, even if there’s a risk he may not hold up as a starter.
  • The Carrasco and Kluber extensions appear to be the latest in a long line of contracts signed with the intent of developing a long-term core. As GM Chris Antonetti said recently on MLB Network Radio (Twitter link): “This nucleus is going to be in place for awhile. Ownership has given us incredible resources.”
  • Mutually beneficial extensions have been a key component of successful Indians’ seasons since John Hart began pioneering them in the 1990s, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Bastian spoke to other members of that growing core — Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes — each of whom has signed extensions of their own in the past year-plus. The Cleveland core expressed excitement about being able to grow and express excitement together in the coming years as they enter their primes.
  • Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel looks at the financial implications of the latest pair of Indians extensions, and he also spoke with Antonetti about the decision to offer Carrasco a long-term deal based on a relatively small sample of success. “His mix of pitches has always been a strength from the time we acquired him,” said Antonetti. “But we’ve seen the continued development and maturity and improvement in his routines, his consistency and his focus and we saw it translate to his success as a starting pitcher last year. We believe that now, not only does he have the physical attributes, but the other attributes to be a successful starter.”
  • Carrasco’s deal may appear team-friendly, but an irregular heartbeat that required offseason surgery and a newborn baby played a role in Carrasco’s decision to accept the contract, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and FOX Sports writes that Porcello’s age-23 through age-25 seasons mirror those of Justin Masterson, and Masterson experienced a breakout in his age-26 season — the same that Porcello is currently entering. While that certainly doesn’t guarantee a breakout for Porcello, Cameron notes that the Sox are betting on a breakout or step forward of sorts — one that would’ve launched Porcello’s free agent price considerably beyond the $82.5MM figure upon which he agreed. Judging contracts based on average annual value is all too common a mistake, Cameron notes, as the years accompanying that AAV are a critical factor of any deal. Boston is showing a tendency to pay a premium to keep contracts short in an effort to avoid rostering expensive non-performers down the line, with Porcello’s deal and the Hanley Ramirez contract serving as recent examples, he adds.
  • Tim Britton of the Providence Journal offers a similar take, using CC Sabathia as an example of the dangers of signing a pitcher into their 30s. As Britton notes, Sabathia would’ve been one of the best free agent signings in history had the Yankees let him walk after he exercised an opt out clause following the third season of his initial contract. However, they re-signed him through age-36, and Sabathia’s contract has become an albatross on the Yankees. While Porcello isn’t as good as prime Sabathia and likely never will be — a fact Britton acknowledges — his situation still aids the argument that it’s better to pay a premium for a pitcher in his prime than commit exorbitant amounts of money to their decline years.
  • I’ll echo my thoughts on the Porcello deal that I tweeted out and included in MLBTR’s write-up of his extension and agree with both Cameron and Britton. While Porcello is not now and may never be a front-of-the-rotation arm, the Red Sox clearly believe that he’s capable of taking a step forward from a career year in 2014, and they’re willing to pay what currently seems to be an above-market annual price in order to secure his prime. It’s commonplace for teams to sign older free agents knowing that the final year or two (and sometimes more) will likely be a sunk cost, and yet as observers we accept that as part of free agency. The Red Sox are taking an opposite approach, seemingly making a strong bet that Porcello’s best years are ahead. Paying for an expected outcome that has yet to take place is risky, to be sure, but it’s no riskier than guaranteeing a pitcher north of $20MM in his age-36 season, as we saw with James Shields, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer this winter. The notion that a player must first “prove” that he is worth upper-market dollars over a long-term implicitly requires that those upper-market dollars will be awarded after or at the tail end of his peak, thereby negating much of the logic in committing such a sizable sum. Whether or not the Porcello deal ultimately looks wise or turns into an albatross, the thinking behind the deal is sound: make projections based on scouting and analytic input, and invest. The alternative — wait and see, then pay for the downswing of a player’s career — is hardly a less risky approach.

Royals Extend Yordano Ventura

7:34pm: Per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (via Twitter), Ventura’s two $12MM options could reach $16MM due to escalators.

4:51pm: The Royals and right-hander Yordano Ventura have agreed to a five-year contract extension that contains club option years for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the team announced.  The deal will pay Ventura $23MM over the five guaranteed years, while each option year is worth $12MM (with a $1MM buyout) with escalators based on Cy Young Award voting finishes.  All told, Ventura stands to earn at least $47MM if his contract reaches the full seven seasons.  Ventura is represented by Relativity Baseball.

According to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, the deal breaks down as follows: Ventura receives a $1MM signing bonus and earns $750K this season, $1MM in 2016, $3.25MM in 2017, $6.25MM in 2018 and $9.75MM in 2019.  The extension covers Ventura’s two remaining pre-arbitration seasons and his three arb years while giving the Royals control over his first two free agent seasons.  Gaining those extra years of control over a very promising 23-year-old is a nice score for the team.  Under GM Dayton Moore, the Royals have also locked up Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Billy Butler and Joakim Soria to pre-arb extensions.MLB: World Series-San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals

Ventura is the latest notable Relativity client with between 1-2 years of service time to sign an extension, joining the likes of Julio Teheran, Andrelton Simmons, Paul Goldschmidt and Madison Bumgarner.  Among recent extensions for pitchers with comparable service times, Ventura’s deal is less expensive than the deals signed by Bumgarner ($35MM over five seasons with two club options) and Jose Quintana ($26MM/five years with two club options).  Teheran’s deal ($32.4MM) was also pricier, though the Braves righty signed for six guaranteed years and only one club option.

Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, Ventura drew a lot of attention as he moved through Kansas City’s farm system and entered the 2014 season ranked as one of the top pitching prospects in the game.  Ventura made three starts for K.C. in 2013 and then posted a 3.20 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 2.30 K/BB rate over 180 IP for the Royals last season, also notching a 3.20 ERA over 25 1/3 postseason innings.

As Passan noted in his original report, Ventura dealt with soreness in both his elbow and shoulder last season, and between his 97mph fastball and relatively slight (6’0, 180 pounds), there have long been concerns that the right-hander could eventually be a health risk.  From this perspective, it’s easy to see why Ventura would’ve opted to take a big guaranteed payday now rather than risk potential injury issues through his arbitration years.  The Royals are betting that this deal will turn into a bargain for them if Ventura stays healthy and productive, though if not, the $23MM guarantee isn’t too much of a payroll albatross even for a mid-market club.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman (all Twitter links) reported that the agreement had been finalized pending a physical, and that the deal was worth $23MM.  Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reported yesterday that the two sides were close working out an extension for five years and at least one option year.  MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan had the details of the option years and that the extension would supercede Ventura’s previous 2015 contract.

Photo courtesy of Peter Aiken/USA Today Sports Images

Royals In Advanced Extension Talks With Yordano Ventura

SATURDAY: Talks between the two sides are “at the finish line,” Passan reports (via Twitter).  Ventura will receive $22MM in guaranteed money in the deal.  One version of the contract that was discussed was a five-year deal with two club option years, which would’ve given the Royals control over another of Ventura’s free agent seasons.  MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (Twitter links) reports that the five guaranteed years and two option years is indeed the structure of Ventura’s extension.  The contract would begin in 2015 and a source tells Flanagan that it should be completed within 48 hours.

FRIDAY: The Royals are in negotiations with young righty Yordano Ventura about a five-year extension that would include an option for a sixth season, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports. The deal currently being contemplated by the two sides would guarantee Ventura over $20MM.

A new contract along these lines would be a fascinating study in risk and reward for both the club and the Relativity Baseball client. In spite of his excellence at a young age and significant arbitration earning capacity, the 23-year-old seems to profile as something of an injury risk. In addition to drawing frequent remarks on the velocity that comes out of his small frame, Ventura had a few minor arm issues crop up last year.

Ventura will enter the 2015 season with just over one full year of big league service, meaning he projects to reach arbitration eligibility in 2017 and free agency in 2020. While he is at an early position on the service curve, Ventura has already established himself as the type of productive arm worthy of investment: last year, he tossed 183 innings of 3.20 ERA ball with 7.8 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 and a 47.6% groundball rate. ERA estimators indicate that his ERA may be somewhat lower than his real production, but they still credit him as an above-average starter in his first full season in the big leagues.

One significant question, assuming a deal along the lines of that reported does in fact get done, is when the contract kicks in. A five-year guarantee with a sixth-year option would give Kansas City control over one free agent season if it begins with the 2015 campaign.

Central Links: Moore, Royals, Tigers, Cardinals

Though there’s been speculation that Royals GM Dayton Moore could be a possibility to take over the GM slot in Atlanta following Frank Wren’s dismissal, Royals owner David Glass told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that Moore is “absolutely” staying with the Royals. Moore’s contract runs through 2016, but as Heyman and others have noted, it’d seem odd to leave town after getting the Royals to their first World Series in 29 years. Glass had nothing but praise for Moore: “He’s done a great job. He’s as good as it gets as far as a general manager.”

More news from baseball’s Central divisions…

  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis breaks down how the Royals constructed their World Series roster, noting that the club has 14 homegrown players (draft or international signing), nine acquired via waivers or trade and only two signed via free agency (Omar Infante and Jason Vargas). One could make the case that Jeremy Guthrie also belongs in the free agent category, as he technically hit the open market for a couple of weeks between the end of the 2012 season and re-signing in Kansas City. However, the most intriguing part of Callis’ piece, for MLBTR readers, may be a comment from Moore on the importance of Jake Odorizzi‘s role in the James Shields/Wade Davis trade: “…he also kept Yordano Ventura out of that deal at that time.”
  • MLive.com’s Chris Iott makes five predictions about the upcoming Tigers offseason in his latest piece, prognosticating that Detroit will not make a serious run at re-signing Max Scherzer, nor will it spend lavishly on its bullpen, perhaps adding one mid-range option at best. As he notes, the combined $17MM owed to Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria is already more than the $15.4MM the club spent on last year’s entire Opening Day bullpen. Iott does, however, foresee a re-signing of Victor Martinez. For his last two predictions, he expects an internal competition for the fifth starter slot and that one (or both) or Andy Dirks and Don Kelly will be non-tendered, based on recent comments from GM Dave Dombrowski. Bottom line: he expects Detroit to spend on retaining Martinez and acquiring a center fielder rather than on the bullpen or rotation.
  • The Cardinals aren’t likely to re-sign any of their five free agents, writes MLB.com’s Jen Langosch. That means that Justin Masterson, A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Ellis and perhaps most notably, lifetime Cardinal Jason Motte and the resurgent Pat Neshek are ticketed for new jerseys. Neshek is probably the most intriguing of the bunch, as the 34-year-old signed a minor league deal last offseason but earned an All-Star nod en route to a final ERA of 1.87 in 67 1/3 innings with 9.1 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9.

AL Notes: Ventura, Zimmer, Paxton, Rangers, Suarez

While there are, thankfully, no new Tommy John procedures to pass on, the news out of the American League was once again dominated by injury situations involving young arms. Here’s the latest:

  • The Royals avoided an immediate scare with Yordano Ventura, but the news was not all positive, explains Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). Manager Ned Yost said on the club’s television broadcast today that trainers diagnosed Ventura with “valgus stress overload,” which Passan says can have longer-term complications. Passan lists cartilage damage, arthritis, bone chips, and instability (with possible exposure for the UCL) as problems associated with that condition.
  • Meanwhile, the club is not sanguine about the possibility of its other top young arm — Kyle Zimmer — making his way back from a lat injury to help the big league club this year, reports Dick Kaegel of MLB.com“We were looking down the road at maybe after the All-Star break, if Kyle was really throwing good and there was a need, he might be a guy that we could bring up to help us,” said Yost. Now, says Kaegel, Zimmer may not even be throwing a baseball by the All-Star break. While the skipper indicated that the long-term prognosis remains positive, the injury could certainly have implications for how Kansas City navigates the summer.
  • Turning to the Mariners, one of the team’s rehabbing young starters, James Paxton, has been shut down after an MRI revealed shoulder inflammation, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (on Twitter). The club is hopeful that the rest period for the 25-year-old lefty will not be longer than one week, but it had been hoped that Paxton would be nearing a big league return. It bears noting that Paxton, who entered the year with 27 days of MLB service, has been adding time to his clock while on the 15-day DL.
  • In spite of their extensive injury woes, it is too early to count the Rangers as trade deadline sellers, writes MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan“We’re in May,” said GM Jon Daniels. “The players aren’t giving up, and we certainly aren’t either.” Of course, the head baseball man also seemed not to rule out the possibility of the club ultimately deciding to recoup some future value if it cannot keep pace over the summer. “We’ll continue to evaluate it and let it play out,” he said. “We’ll make adjustments if we have to, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves.”
  • Ever since shortstop Jose Iglesias was lost for the season, speculation has run rampant about the possibility of the Tigers making an addition up the middle, but the club has thrived without a major move thus far. On the other hand, the club sits at second-to-last in the bigs in shortstop production (half a win below replacement level). As MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports, GM Dave Dombrowski recently got an in-person look at 22-year-old shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who has thrived in his first few games at the Triple-A level. “He’s done very well this year,” said Dombrowski. “Everybody has talked well of him.” Indeed, Suarez currently boasts a .291/.351/.520 line over 191 plate appearances, most of them at Double-A. While the GM certainly did not suggest that he was ready to hand the young Venezuelan the reigns, Beck notes that Suarez could well force his way into the big league conversation. Though Suarez has only just made it to the highest level of the minors, it could well make sense for Detroit to look at him at the major league level before deciding whether (and if so how) to shop at the trade deadline.

Yordano Ventura Has Clean MRI

TODAY: The MRI came back clean and the current expectation is that Ventura will only miss one start, Royals GM Dayton Moore said on MLB Network today (hat tip to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports).

YESTERDAY: Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura left tonight’s start against the Astros after allowing five runs in 2 2/3 innings and exhibiting inconsistent velocity. Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that Ventura is experiencing “lateral elbow discomfort.” Royals manager Ned Yost says the team’s training staff does not believe Ventura injured his elbow ligament, but Ventura will have an MRI on Tuesday. In 57 1/3 innings this season, Ventura has posted a 3.45 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9.

A significant injury for Ventura would represent a serious blow not only to the Royals, who would be losing their most exciting young talent, but also to baseball in general, which has suffered a terrible year for pitcher health. Jose Fernandez, Matt Moore, Jameson Taillon, Jarrod Parker, Patrick Corbin, Martin Perez, Ivan Nova, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are among the pitchers to suffer serious injuries in recent months, along with top draft prospects like Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde.

AL Central Notes: Iglesias, Ventura, Twins

Here's the latest from the A.L. Central:

  • While the picture remains somewhat unclear, it seems apparent that the Tigers are preparing to deal with life without young shortstop Jose Iglesias for some time. The club made an inquiry with the Diamondbacks about shortstop Chris Owings, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, but the discussions were not fruitful.
  • Of course, one obvious possibility involves the signing of free agent Stephen Drew, which seems not to be the club's first option. While there is a seeming fit — Drew is a solid veteran, the Tigers are a win-now club — some pundits agree with Detroit's inclination to look internally while exploring the trade market. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, for example, argues that Detroit is better off patching things over to start the year and evaluating as time goes on. The performance of the fill-ins, recovery of Iglesias, and developments in the market could all lead to solutions and increase clarity, and Cameron says the team is likely good enough to absorb some performance decline in the meantime.
  • The Royals are expected to tab prospect Yordano Ventura to open the season in the rotation, tweets Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The 22-year-old has backed up his billing as one of the game's top pitching prospects with a stellar spring. Of course, if Ventura breaks camp on the active roster, the Royals will lose the chance to delay his service clock and retain control for an additional season.
  • There is an increasing sense of urgency in Minnesota with ticket sales lagging, and the Twins will be aggressive with roster changes if need be in the early going, reports ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider piece). The club already spent the sixth-most cash in the game through free agency, and Olney says it may be willing to move up some high-end talent if it struggles out of the gate. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire admitted today that he was intrigued by the possibility of utilizing the towering Alex Meyer out of the pen for his first taste of MLB action, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Royals To Call Up Yordano Ventura

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. 

Prospect Rumor Roundup: Future Promotions

If you're a moderate to hardcore baseball fan, you've probably heard of the term "Super Two" when top prospects and their imminent big league promotions are being discussed. Basically, it's an important business aspect of baseball that can cause your favorite MLB-ready prospect to spend a little extra time in the minors. For a refresher on the subject, check out Tim Dierkes' article from April and Ben Nicholson-Smith's post from February.

Now that you're up to date and understand why some players have been recently called up to the Majors, it's time to identify the next big-named prospects who could be promoted in 2013, following in the footsteps of the Rays' Wil Myers, the Mets' Zack Wheeler, and the Mariners' Mike Zunino.

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox: Bogaerts, 20, didn't let his age stop him from dominating Double-A ball. One of the youngest players in the Eastern League, the shortstop hit more than .300 with strong on-base skills and power. The Aruba native earned himself a trip to Triple-A after less than half a season. A strong start to 2013 earned fellow shortstop prospect (and potential roadblock) Jose Iglesias a 25-man roster spot as the backup to oft-injured veteran Stephen Drew, but Bogaerts has a much higher ceiling. Iglesias is much more likely to end up as trade bait thanks to his high-level play — should Boston need to shore up its roster for a run at the playoffs. Drew is a free agent at the end of the year, and the Red Sox may want to give Bogaerts a chance to get his feet wet in the Majors by the end of the year to gauge if he's truly ready to assume the full-time gig in 2014.

Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Tigers: Castellanos had a modest start to the 2013 season, but he's seen his offensive numbers improve each month with his OPS rising from .755 to .814 to 1.025. Also working in his favor for a call-up is the fact that he can offer competent defensive assistance at both third base and in the corner outfield. Miguel Cabrera isn't going to be bumped from his starting gig at the hot corner, but the emergence of Castellanos could allow the club to rest the veteran in the second half of the year in preparation for long playoff run. The prospect could also be a solid platoon complement to left fielder Andy Dirks, a left-handed hitter. It would also give Avisail Garcia — another rookie outfielder — a chance to spend more time in Triple-A. Lynn Henning of the Detroit News wrote that Castellanos could be a key player for the big league club as it tries to secure a playoff spot in 2013.

Sonny Gray, RHP, Athletics: Aside from Bartolo Colon, injuries have ensured that Oakland's starting rotation lacks pitchers with more than two years of service time. Due to the volatility of young pitchers, depth could become an issue for the first-place club in the second half of the year. Gray, a former first round draft pick, could offer some help after rebounding well from a disappointing 2012 season. The right-hander has averaged more than six innings per start in his 13 Triple-A appearances and struck out 83 batters in 82 1/3 innings of work.

Erik Johnson, RHP, White Sox: Chicago is currently deploying an inexperienced starting rotation with the likes of Hector Santiago, Jose Quintana, and Dylan Axelrod. Johnson, a former second round draft pick, has dominated pro ball and his time at Double-A in 2013 has been no different. He currently has a 2.24 ERA with 74 strikeouts and just 21 walks in 84 2/3 innings of work. Johnson, 23, has a frame that suggests he should develop into an innings-eater and his pitching acumen could eventually help him develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter for the Sox. The California native could offer some assistance to the big league club in the second half of the season, and he has the highest ceiling of any starter in the Sox system at either Double-A or Triple-A. Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune recently penned an article after speaking with Johnson, who said he's just taking it one day at a time and not worrying about a promotion to The Show.

Danny Salazar, RHP, Indians: After spending big in the offseason, Cleveland finds itself in a playoff hunt. With a big league starting rotation that features some rather large question marks with the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, and Carlos Carrasco, Salazar could become a key player at some point during the second half of the season. While splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A, the Dominican right-hander has struck out 80 batters in 58 innings of work. If he doesn't figure into the club's plans in the starting rotation, his power arsenal and ability to pitch multiple innings could allow him to offer some assistance in the bullpen in the latter half of the year and even the playoffs. In a piece for MLB.com, John Wagner spoke to Salazar's Triple-A manager, Chris Tremie, who talked about the things that the young pitcher does well.

Jonathan Singleton, 1B/OF, Astros: Singleton's season got off to an inauspicious start when he was suspended for 50 games after violating minor league baseball's drug policy. Since returning, the 21-year-old hitter has appeared in just 10 games, split between Single-A, Double-A and now Triple-A. Thirteen of his 20 hits have gone for extra bases, and he's walked 13 times. Singleton has experience playing both left field and first base but has exclusively played the infield in 2013. Despite that, his clearest opening for big league playing time could be in the outfield where Trevor Crowe, J.D. Martinez, and (recently demoted) Jimmy Paredes have produced less-than-impressive numbers. First basemen/designated hitters Chris Carter and Carlos Pena have also had underwhelming seasons to date (and could become trade bait) but offer much-needed power. The playoffs are out of the question for 2013, but once outfield prospect George Springer joins Singleton in Houston, the club will have a strong middle-of-the-order core to build around.

Yordano Ventura, RHP, Royals: Talented but undersized pitching prospects are slowly shedding the stigma that they're destined for future bullpen work at the big league level. Like Toronto's Marcus Stroman, the slender Ventura doesn't break the six-foot mark, but his upper-90s velocity — which tickles triple digits — has intrigued prospect watchers since he came over to North America from the Dominican Republic in 2010. After opening 2013 in Double-A, a recent promotion has brought Ventura one step away from the Majors. Should injuries strike — or should the Royals tire of the inconsistent performances from Luis Mendoza or Wade Davis — the 22-year-old Dominican could receive the call. Jeffrey Flanagan of Fox Sports Kansas City recently spoke to Royals Assistant General Manager J.J. Picollo who said the organization is looking to have Ventura become more efficient and keep his pitch counts down.