There were few expectations placed on Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura last season. While he was considered the favorite to open the year as the team’s fifth starter, Ventura had only made three starts in the majors. The potential was there, but Ventura came with a lot of uncertainty. Once he got the job, Ventura proved he was a fifth starter in name only. Over 183 innings, the 23-year-old posted a 3.20 ERA, with a 3.60 FIP. By the playoffs, Ventura had emerged as the Royals second most dependable starter behind James Shields. With Shields expected to leave town during the offseason, Ventura will enter 2015 with enormous expectations. Will he provide an encore?
In order to determine how Ventura might perform moving forward, let’s take a look at some players who turned in a similar performance at age-23.
|Tony Armas Jr.||196.2||20.700%||10.700%||4.03||3.99||3.6|
The above chart shows pitchers who produced similar strikeout and walks rates to Ventura at age-23. This isn’t the most ideal way to compare Ventura to other pitchers, but it at least gives us an idea of how guys with similar peripherals performed going forward.
You’ll notice a few things about the list almost immediately. For the most part, the chart is comprised some very talented players. You’ll also notice Ventura’s 2.8 WAR rates fairly low among the bunch. There are a few reasons for this. For one, Ventura wasn’t worked as hard as many of these players. His 183 innings ranks as the sixth-lowest on the list. That’s a result of pitching in the modern era. Teams don’t push their young starters as much anymore, so there was no chance Ventura was going to throw 246.2 innings at age-23. These aren’t major issues, though, and shouldn’t take away from Ventura’s strong performance.
What will things look like going forward? In order to figure this out, we can look at how these players performed at age-24. That should give us a rough view of how Ventura will perform next season. When sorted, the sample drops by two players. Ventura is obviously not included since he hasn’t turned 24 yet, and Patrick Corbin missed all last season due to Tommy John.
The results are actually somewhat surprising. While most of the pitchers included continued to post good numbers, nearly all of them experienced decline at age-24. Only five of the 19 pitchers posted a lower ERA or a lower FIP at 24. Six managed to post a higher WAR (Chris Carpenter posted an identical 3.1 WAR both years).
This isn’t necessarily a bad sign for Ventura, though. It’s tough to really improve on a 3.20 ERA and a 3.60 FIP, so some regression is probably expected. On top of that, it’s not like many of these pitchers completely fell off the map at age-24. Brian Matusz saw a pretty big decline, and never really got back, but that’s about it. Some of the other pitchers would eventually fall off due to injury, like John Danks or Tommy Hanson.
Ventura turned in a promising rookie season that put him among some really talented young pitchers. While it’s going to be tough for him to immediately build off the promise of that rookie season, that doesn’t mean Ventura is doomed entering next season. Even if there’s some drop-off, there’s plenty to like about his ability moving forward.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.