As we mentioned on Wednesday, we’re going to be contributing to FoxSports.com over the course of this season, and today, Jeff Sullivan is up with a piece on Yordano Ventura, the reigning Velocity King among MLB starters.
Last year, out of every starting pitcher who started at least one major-league game, Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura threw the hardest average fastball. His lead over second place was more than a full mile per hour.
This year, out of every starting pitcher who’s started at least one major-league game, Ventura has thrown the hardest average fastball. His lead over second place is almost two full miles per hour.
Fastball velocity gets a guy noticed. You could probably count on one hand the number of starting pitchers in the world capable of reaching triple digits during a game. Fastball velocity generates hype … and oohs and aahs. A good fastball allows a starter to get through the door, and down the road it buys a starter extra chances.
But as Toronto veteran Mark Buehrle demonstrates every five days, there’s a lot more to pitching than how hard you can throw. The questions with Ventura have nothing to do with his fastball; they have to do with everything else.
In January, FanGraphs ranked Ventura as the Royals’ second-best prospect, behind only Kyle Zimmer. Ventura throws a fastball, a curveball and a changeup, but his secondary pitches could use more development if he is to unlock the extent of his potential.
Armed with that incredible fastball, last year Ventura struck out just 11 of 64 batters in the majors. Before that, down in Triple-A, he allowed more than a hit per inning. Steps forward haven’t been necessary for Ventura to pitch in the majors, but there’s a difference between pitching and pitching well.
For Ventura, the goal is for 2014 to be a year of improvement, or refinement. After a promising spring, he got off to a wonderful start Tuesday, when he blanked the Rays for six innings. Though it was unfortunate the Royals lost 1-0 — the Rays scored in the game’s lone run in the top of the ninth — Ventura showed early signs of development that could bode well for the coming years.
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