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The dust hasn’t yet settled on the 2014 but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to look back at some of our pre-season work and look at how we did. Before the regular season started, we (Bret Sayre) released our fantasy prospect rankings and while there are innumerable (okay, fine, 101) interesting aspects to that list, some stood out more than most.

Two of my favorite prospects in all of baseball, much less fantasy happened to be ranked back to back as though they were striking a pose for an action/spy movie poster. Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman checked in at 15th and Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura ranked 16th. Let’s take a look at what we said then, how they did, and why we were right or wrong.

What We Said Then

15. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 29)

  • Potential Earnings: $25-30
  • Risk Factor: Low
  • Fantasy Overview: Four-category contributor; impact potential in W, K, WHIP
  • Realistic Ceiling: A top-20 fantasy starter with 200-plus strikeouts
  • Realistic Floor: Lance Lynn in the American League
  • Gausman was far better than he’s being given credit for in his brief 2013 major-league debut. He’s unlikely to crack the Orioles rotation out of spring training, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he were their best pitcher by year’s end.

16. Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 75)

  • Potential Earnings: $20-25
  • Risk Factor: Low
  • Fantasy Overview: Four-category contributor; impact potential in K
  • Realistic Ceiling: A top-20 fantasy starter
  • Realistic Floor: Kelvin Herrera

A contender for Rookie of the Year honors in the American League this season, Ventura’s heat added some spice to the end of the Royals’ 2013 season. He may struggle to throw 200-plus innings, but the rate stats have the potential to be valuable.

What Happened

Category

Kevin Gausman

Yordano Ventura

Innings Pitched

108.1

179

Strikeouts (rate)

83 (18.2%)

153 (20.1%)

Walks (rate)

37 (8.1%)

68 (8.9%)

ERA

3.57

3.07

FIP

3.49

3.58

BABIP

.309

.282

GB%

40.5%

48%

Why We Were Right/Wrong
Ventura quite obviously outperformed Gausman in every facet, but especially any category that was cumulative/playing time dependent. While Ventura won a job out of spring training, Gausman was one of few Orioles’ starters with options remaining, and thus, he was subjected to riding the shuttle to Norfolk quite often, as the Orioles frequently manipulate their active roster.

Focusing on the process though, there wasn’t anything that would have made us assume that Ventura was going to earn so much more playing time than Gausman at the start of the season. True, the Orioles did add Ubaldo Jimenez (who subsequently pitched himself out of the rotation) in the offseason, but the Royals had added Jason Vargas, and re-committed to Bruce Chen during the winter, not to mention Danny Duffy’s looming presence. Neither was a lock for a rotation spot, but both could be counted on to pitch meaningful innings.

Bret was spot on in highlighting Ventura’s inning workload, though part of that was by the Royals’ design. Whether he can sustain this type of performance next year, as Kansas City slowly extends the leash is the true question. I’m not sure Bret was wrong in pegging Gausman as a possibility for the title of Baltimore’s best pitcher by season’s end either, as without a late-season run from Chris Tillman, he might well have been right. The Orioles’ decision to put him in the bullpen for the playoffs aside, I’d feel emboldened to predict Gausman as the Orioles best pitcher by the end of next year, based on what we saw from him in 2014.

Both pitchers are close to league-average in walks, something that both could see decrease as they begin to trust their stuff more often, and while Gausman lags behind in strikeouts, I’d expect a tick up in that category as he continues to work in his developing slider. If there was a spot we missed on between these two in general, I think it’s with Ventura. The questions on his build/size were overblown because the stuff is just that good, and realistically, he should have been bumped up a few spots. He’s been everything we thought he was, and despite a freak elbow scare over the summer, hasn’t fallen prey to anything we were concerned about. Ventura’s ability to generate huge amounts of ground balls is another plus, though it’s worth noting that because of that ability, his BABIP is likely a bit low. Ventura really is the entire package when it comes to an SP2 once he gets enough innings under his belt, and an uptick in strikeouts would put him in range of an SP1. I’m not as confident Gausman settles in that high because his slider development is still relatively nascent, and he’s good enough to get by with his big fastball, excellent changeup, and weak contact. While the ability to add whiffs to his profile exists, even a stagnant Gausman would be similar to a right-handed 2014 Danny Duffy in terms of production (Duffy’s FIP was 3.63).

What Did We Learn
Bret’s pretty good at this stuff. While there was good reason to be concerned about Yordano’s ability to hold up over the course of a full season, my takeaway is to trust in the stuff until the player shows he can’t do it. We were probably a bit hasty in our assumption Gausman could miss bats at an impact level out of the chute and without a third pitch to sequence in, but otherwise I think hammer met nail.

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Shawnykid23
9/26
Sounds like you are buying (or at least holding) these 2 in dynasty leagues?
sam19041
9/26
Are you guys planning either a new ranking at the end of the season or a full, player-by-player review of your most recent top 101? Would like to see either or both.
fbraconi
9/26
What was the good reason to be concerned about Ventura's ability to hold up over the course of a full season? His injury history looks pretty clean. Is it that he's 3 inches shorter than Gausman? What is the height threshold at which a pitcher's endurance is suspect? If you look at AL pitchers of similar youth and effectiveness-- Ventura, Tillman, Cobb, Archer, Keuchel, Gray--it's hard to see how height could have been used as a predictor of total innings or of innings per start (yes, I know, small sample, but I don't get paid for this). Please excuse me questioning this issue from time to time-- other than your bias on height and frame, your prospect coverage is outstanding-- and allowed me to snag Ventura in a late round of my league's farm draft a few years ago. How did I ever let Stroman and Gray slip by me!
TheArtfulDodger
9/26
Well, if you look at someone like Gray, who is faltering after hitting 200 IP for the first time, you'll understand why the concerns are there. Ventura is under six feet tall and that, combined with his weight, gives scouts pause. The group you used isn't exactly apt, as most of those guys are significantly different builds than Ventura, and so don't carry the same risk-factors. It is all about how well scouts think the body will hold up under heavy workloads, and if it doesn't, it means the pitcher is going to the bullpen, so it's a fairly large risk to undertake. 6'4" is an ideal height for a pitcher, but they generally don't receive concerns about height unless they're under 6'1"
fbraconi
9/27
That's a good point about Gray, though the sample is very, very small. But the premise that pitchers below a certain height (or weight/height) wear down late in the season is a statistically testable hypothesis.
TheArtfulDodger
9/27
This isn't my personal theory. This is how show and development guys operate, which is what matters
SansRig
9/27
It's also about getting "deeper" on the batter, giving the batter less time to pick up the ball before it leaves the pitcher's hand. In theory it would make the velocity play up. I actually think that it's really helpful to be tall/long, and I like this reason more than the endurance aspect. Clearly, there are exceptions (Stroman, Ventura), but it is still important as a general rule.