At only 22 years old, Kansas City Royals right-handed pitching prospect Yordano Ventura is already in his fifth season of Minor League baseball.
The Royals signed Ventura as an international free agent from Samana, Dominican Republic, in 2008, and he is currently ranked the team's No. 3 prospect. He has made steady progress and is a prospect with the upside of a staff ace.
Ventura has a power arm, with the ability to throw his fastball in the high-90s, with little effort. When he reaches for something extra, he can hit 100 mph or above.
Ventura's velocity is even more stunning when his physical stature -- 5-foot-11, 180 pounds -- is considered. His lightning-fast arm action and whip-like delivery are cornerstones of his mechanics.
Ventura has pitched at every level of the Royals organization, gaining experience, confidence and command of his secondary pitches as he matures. Following an in-season promotion, he's currently pitching at Triple-A Omaha.
Watching Ventura, he seems most confident throwing his fastball. He is able to get sink on the pitch and miss bats. He also generates tardy swings, causing a lot of foul balls along the way. The net result is usually a high pitch count.
One factor in his success is the fact Ventura grips the ball with ease and hides the ball well in large hands that he uses to his advantage.
Ventura's primary secondary pitch is a sharp-breaking curve that alters the balance and changes the eye level of the hitter. He uses the pitch quite effectively and doesn't hesitate to double up on those secondary pitches. In one sequence I observed, Ventura went from throwing a 100 mph fastball to an 87 mph breaking ball on the following pitch. That's enough of a differential to fool any hitter.
He can bust pitches inside on the hands of both left and right-handed hitters.
Ventura faced Manny Ramirez in Ramirez's first at-bat for the Round Rock Express. Ramirez singled the first time up, but Ventura astutely mixed his repertoire in each of Ramirez's following trips to the plate. One strikeout of the former Major League slugger occurred with a fastball up in the zone that Ramirez could not catch up with. That's the standard for a pitcher many have compared to a young Pedro Martinez.
I was taken aback by the speed and accuracy of Ventura's pick-off move to first base. In the blink of an eye, he blistered the ball to the first baseman time and time again, causing the runners to hustle back to the bag. His throws to first base seemed to duplicate the velocity of his pitches to the plate. Using a bit of a rocking motion from the stretch, he served notice that a runner is best served to stay where he is.
Ventura has more development ahead, but he has the type of arm strength and mechanics to ultimately succeed at the front of the rotation.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.