This past Sunday I made the trek from Denton, TX to Round Rock to see the Omaha Storm Chasers take on Manny Ramirez and the Round Rock Express. I was braving the 4 hour drive and the Sunday barrage of Texas FM radio—roughly 93% Jesus talk or country music—just to get a glimpse of Ventura throwing a baseball.
Disclaimer; I’m not a scout. But let’s get to it:
Yordano isn’t a big guy; MiLB has him listed at 5’ 11", 180 and that looks about right. He was not as slight as I was expecting and at no point was I expecting him to break in half while pitching. I thought his delivery was pretty easy; it didn’t seem particularly strenuous and the arm action was fast and clean and he seemed to repeat the delivery well.
Fastball is his best pitch. He was varying the speed anywhere from 93 to 100 but sitting 96-98. He popped 100 five times and these seemed to be legit readings. When thrown in that 96 range, it has some real nice, late arm-side run. It’s definitely not your flat Kyle Farnsworth-esque offering. Probably most impressively, he was commanding it really well to all quadrants, staying low in the zone and working it inside and out, though mostly staying away. In the 5th inning, he did start missing his spots and elevating the FB, but most of the AAA hitters simply couldn’t catch up to the velocity. Elite velocity paired with plus movement and command makes this one hell of a pitch.
As I’ve said before, it seemed to me as if he was throwing two different curveballs, one in the 74-76 range that he was throwing for strikes. It was a good pitch with tight rotation and he could actually throw it for strikes. He was comfortable throwing it in different counts. He threw Manny a first pitch curve, up and in that induced a weak groundout to short. He also threw one in a 3-1 count for a strike, which really impressed me. At one point he did leave one elevated on the outside half of the plate and a lefty just stroked it into left field for a base hit. His harder curve, in the 81-84 range was a fucking monster. He’d get ahead in counts early locating his fastball for good strikes, and then he’d drop this pitch in the dirt and most of the guys didn’t have a chance. It has sharp break and just drops out of the strike zone leaving the batter chasing. It’s a legit strikeout pitch that plays off his fastball nicely. His hard curveball did seem to induce a lot of shitty foul contact that elevated his pitch count a bit. This is an impressive, plus breaking pitch.
The changeup is what I was really interested in seeing. Ventura was a lot more comfortable with the pitch than I was expecting even though it is his 3rd best pitch. He was throwing it 85-89 and the pitch has good arm-side fade. He was comfortable throwing this pitch in any count and it noticeably threw off the timing of batters. He threw an absolute monster inside to Manny at 87 following a FB at 98. The change fooled him badly. He also started off a lefty with 3 straight changes, locating 2 for strikes, which was nice to see. Really, I was just impressed with his confidence in all 3 pitches in any count, and his ability to command them for strikes. He threw a couple "wow" changeups that baffled hitters that led me to believe this will be an average offering with potential for more down the road. It still needs some work, but he definitely has some feel for it.
I’ll keep this quick. He gave up 7 hits over 5 innings but most were of the "throw my bat out over the plate and hope for the best" variety. Manny put a nice inside-out swing on a really tough FB down-and-in at 93 for a blooper to right. I really only saw him get barreled up a couple of times. Eli Whiteside took the left fielder to deep left before making a catch on the warning track. Mike Olt also took an outside FB up the middle for a single and a lefty ripped a hard grounder past the 1B for a double. Some of the other hits were a result of the hitter cheating big time attempting to catch up on with the upper 90’s velocity. He had 9 Ks, relying on the hard curve as the strikeout pitch.
As you can tell, I left very impressed and I had my imagination to accompany me on my long drive back home. (I also found a radio show devoted to local, DFW alt music, which was nice. Of course they bury this show on Sunday at 11 PM…) However I left with a couple questions: How will he deal with failure at the Major League Level? And how will the body hold up to a Major League workload? Before this year, he’s never thrown more than 110 innings in a season. It will be interesting to see how many the Royals let him accumulate this summer. Oh yeah, this is also the Royals so one more question; When is the TJ scheduled for? But seriously, the guy has a plus-plus FB a plus CU and a plus-potential CH. The stuff is fantastic, but I’ve been burned by dreams of a Montgomery, Duffy, Lamb, Odorizzi, and Dwyer rotation and I’m still recovering. So as impressed as I was, I’ll remain cautiously optimistic.
Saw the Naturals play in Frisco on Monday. Brooks Pounders was pitching. He is a very rotund individual. Spun a nice breaking ball that fooled a lot of hitters, but his FB was sitting 88 and he couldn’t command it, missing the zone a lot. Cheslor Cuthbert is large individual who is pretty slow. He has a good approach at the plate that should serve him well. He didn’t get any fielding opportunities before he was ejected in the 4th. Oh yeah, he hit into a DP and was hustling down the line. After he was called out on what was a close play, he slammed his helmet down and the ump was quick to eject him. Cuthbert had some words for him, and then he was gone. I don’t have any analysis to add there. Eibner had some nice at bats, and Calixte looked completely lost at the plate. He was completely baffled by anything that wasn’t straight.
Talked to an autograph hound in Frisco from Paris, TX who threw an Elvis Andrus comp on Calixte, told me a story about how Jurikson Profar was a dick because he refused to sign a 3rd item for him and insinuated Chris Davis was certainly juicing via some sort of HGH patch. I got nothing to add. I also talked to a real Royals fan in Round Rock who quite nice. He told me the difference between the Royals and the rest of the league is "The Royals have boys, and other teams have men." He also told me Chris Getz needs to bunt more and he was really pleased a pitcher of Guthrie's caliber re-signed with the Royals. But he was really nice and at least knowledgeable about the minor leagues. Good times.
And that just about covers it. If ya’ll could give me a follow (@mike_sport) I’d appreciate it. I’m trying to up my "Internet presence" and having more than 2 followers seems like I good place to start.