It didn’t take very long for me to push my anti-pitcher agenda here at Baseball Prospectus, as my first Fantasy Freestyle was about curbing spending on pitchers in auction-style drafts. I’ll continue to not love pitchers today as I take a closer look at Yordano Ventura, who has generated plenty of buzz coming off the Royals’ October run.
Despite a slight build, Ventura held up as his rookie season went along making 30 starts and totaling 183 innings pitched with a 3.20 ERA. He also made four starts in the playoffs. Going forward, how Ventura’s body stands up to throwing 200 innings is a concern, especially when considering he mostly gets by on his flame-throwing as his average fastball velocity was 96 mph this year. Despite his elite fastball velocity, he doesn’t miss bats at an elite rate—his 20.3 percent strikeout rate ranked 37th among all qualified starters this year. Ventura totaled 159 strikeouts this year, the same amount as Justin Verlander. Ideally, Ventura will miss more bats as he matures as a pitcher and improves his secondary offerings. His raw stuff might be too good for it not to happen eventually, but when gauging how to value him for next season it would be extremely unwise to assume improvement without cause.
More disheartening than his lack of an elite strikeout rate is his lack of command. Ventura’s 8.8 percent walk rate was the third highest out of all qualified American League starters. He walked at least four batters in a game nine times this year, that’s basically a third of his starts. The walks were disastrous as Ventura’s 1.30 WHIP ranked 64th among all qualified starters this year despite the fact he was tough to hit—his .238 AVG allowed ranked 31st among all qualified starters. Looking at his walks in relation to his strikeouts, Ventura ranked 53rd among all qualified starters in strikeout rate minus walk rate (11.2 percent). It’s obvious that he needs to refine his command and cut down on the walks. Although Ventura was still relatively successful while walking too many batters this year, his 77.3 percent strand rate suggests that he’s due for some regression and won’t be as successful without improvement next time around.
Ventura wasn’t assured a rotation spot until the end of spring training, which tamped down his draft-day price last spring even though he was impressive in spring training. According to BP’s valuation expert Mike Gianella, Ventura earned $16 in AL-only leagues this year. Considering what you might’ve paid for him, he was likely a decent profit. Of course, Ventura’s 14 wins (including a relief win) are factored in there and who knows how many games he’ll win next year. His teammate Danny Duffy, who didn’t win as many games (9) or throw as many innings (149 1/3 IP), still beat him in ERA and WHIP by enough to earn $18. Wade Davis also earned more than Ventura ($20) and winning nine games in relief helped a lot, but he also had just 50 fewer strikeouts compared to Ventura.
The early and unofficial BP PECOTA projections have Ventura pegged for a 4.08 ERA and 1.37 WHIP next year, showing little change outside of the ERA increasing by more than three quarters of a run. Ventura has only one big league season under his belt, but because he was a highly touted prospect across outlets, slinging gas since like the fifth grade and seems to have his share of believers, owners should make him available in keeper leagues if only to see what his market is. I have to imagine there’s a decent chance you’ll find another owner who overvalues him.