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Royals 2015 Season Projections: Yordano Ventura

The rookie flamethrower came up huge for the Royals in 2014. Can he replicate his success?

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Yordano Ventura burst onto the scene in 2014 with his 100 mph fastball, and produced one of the best rookie pitching seasons in franchise history. He won 14 games, and proved his mettle in the post-season by bouncing back from an ill-advised relief performance in the Wild Card game to pitch seven huge shutout innings in a Game Six World Series victory.

Despite one of the fastest fastballs in the game of baseball, Ventura did not exactly blow away the competition with strikeouts. His 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings were just good for 15th in the league among qualified pitchers. In the Royals rotation, only Danny Duffy posted a worse strikeout-to-walk ratio than Ventura's 2.30. Jeff Zimmerman writes it may be due to a lack of movement on his fastball and more polish needed on his breaking pitches. Clearly, there is still room for improvement.

2014 Season 3.20 3.60 7.8 3.4 3.2
Career per 162 games 3.22 3.74 7.7 3.4 3.5
2015 ZIPS 3.56 3.76 7.9 3.3 3.6
2015 Steamer 3.79 3.79 7.9 3.3 2.3
2015 PECOTA 4.16 N/A 8.0 3.5 0.5

The PECOTA projection stands out like a sore thumb, and PECOTA seems to hate the entire Royals pitching staff for some reason. The other projection models like Ventura to pretty much replicate what he did last year, with some BABIP regression after opponents hit just .288 on balls in play against Yordano last year. Steamer also expects some regression due to Ventura's high strand rate - he stranded 77.3% of baserunners last year, which could go back to the average of 72.5%.

Health will still be a concern for Ventura going forward, as it probably will be his entire career. Flamethrowers on such slight frames are always a worry, but Ventura was largely healthy in 2014. He did miss on start in May after a "valgus extension overload", but was otherwise healthy enough to make 30 starts last year. He pitched 208 innings in all last year if you include the post-season, nearly 60 more innings than he had ever pitched in a big league season before. Tom Verducci highlights Ventura as a "pitcher at risk" under his Verducci theory, but that theory has never really been proven.

The pressure will be on Ventura to assume the "ace" role with James Shields departing for San Diego. Ventura will need to continue to improve his secondary pitches to become the kind of front-line caliber pitcher the Royals need him to be. Keeping him healthy will also be a major concern, as the Royals simply cannot afford a pitcher of his talent to miss major time.

What do you expect out of Yordano Ventura in 2015?