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.