Name: Yordano Ventura
Notable 2011 Stats: 4.27 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 8 HRA, 24 BB, 88 K, and 44% GB% in 84 1/3 IP with Kane County (A)
Why He’s This High: Ventura earns some Pedro Martinez comparisons as a classic “small guy, huge arm” righthander out of the Dominican Republic. He generates velocity into the mid-90′s despite being generously listed at 5’11″ 180 (I’d guess it’s more like 5’10″ 155).
The most striking thing about Ventura’s full-season debut in 2011 was that he wasn’t just an erratic, Fabio Martinez Mesa style fireballer. He put up a 3.67 K/BB ratio, filling the zone with strikes thanks to a repeatable motion.
Ventura just turned 20 in June, so he’s quite young, and it’s certainly encouraging that he already shows velocity and control. His secondary pitches–a curveball and changeup–flash plus at times, and if they develop further he could become a front-of-the-rotation arm.
Why He’s This Low: Ventura remains far from the majors, and as a small pitcher who’s never even thrown 100 innings in a season, he faces a lot of durability questions. His delivery is fairly clean, but pitchers this small and with this velocity are going to have fairly high chances of attrition no matter their mechanical precision.
It’s easy to see Ventura ending up shifted to the bullpen if he fails to show he can hold up for a full season in the rotation (or even before that, a la Neftali Feliz).
He’ll need to gain more consistency with his curveball and changeup if he’s going to stay a starter; however, it’s worth noting he held up better against lefties than righties in 2011.
Conclusions: Ventura combines a bigtime arm with surprising aptitude for pitching for somebody of his age. However, his extremely small frame and premium arm strength are always going to raise questions about whether he’s best suited as a power closer. Obviously, he’s still a long way away, and many A-ball arms of this ilk simply fail to pan out in one way or another.
While he holds considerable upside and could become a front-of-the-rotation pitcher, Ventura has some odds to overcome, and he’s not far along enough to merit a ranking higher than this.
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