On Tuesday evening, the insecure part of Yordano Ventura got the best of him. After Manny Machado had some words for Ventura in the 2nd inning for pitching inside, Ventura’s pride got the best of him during Machado’s next at bat, as Yordano drilled him in the back with a 99 MPH fastball, his fastest pitch of the evening. To say it illicited a response is a bit of an understatement:
Most everyone felt like Yordano was past this, after the numerous encounters he had last year that got him in trouble. Instead, once again he allowed his emotions to run the show. This leaves the Royals in a bit of a pickle, since management, coaches and even players are tired of his behavior. So the question has to be asked: What do the Royals do with Yordano Ventura moving forward?
Since the circus that Ventura created spun out of control last night, there have been rumors that the Royals had talked to other front office executives about Ventura in possible trade talks. In my opinion, Ventura will not get traded any time soon. For one, his value has never been lower. It would make no sense for Kansas City to trade an arm like Ventura at his lowest value. Second, the Royals are having issues currently with their starting rotation so it would make no sense to trade away the starter with the highest potential out of their current crop of starters, especially with no relief to be seen down in the minors. So if Venura was to get traded, it probably wouldn’t be until the offseason or even next season.
So if Ventura is staying, the Royals need him to perform much better than he has this year. Through 12 starts this season, Yordano has issued the most walks in the American League, while posting the lowest strikeout rate of his career(6 strikeouts per 9). His ground ball percentage is down(44%) while his fly ball rate has rocketed(39.4%, up from 27.2% last year), which has also seen his home runs per 9 to go up as well. Basically, Ventura is getting hit harder than ever before and is way above the league average when it comes to the exit velocity off of his pitches:
2016 is his third season in the big leagues and the advances that the Royals have expected from him just are not happening. There are still glimpses of the “ace” the Royals think he can be, but those become fewer and farther between each start. After Tuesday’s start, Ventura’s ERA rose to 5.32 while his FIP elevated to 5.29. Normally this would force him to the bullpen or even down to AAA, but the Royals just don’t have the starting pitching to let that happen. Instead, they need him to get his head on straight and at least produce like a league average pitcher.
So do the Royals at least have some options with Ventura? If you mean ‘can he be sent to the minors’ the answer is yes. He still has options left, so a trip to Omaha isn’t completely out of the question. In fact, I would think that Ventura is on a short leash with the coaching staff and if they feel he needs to work on something in the minors, then he will be sent down. One comment made after the game on Tuesday I did find interesting, especially when it comes to what Ventura has been told by the coaching staff. Here is Orioles manager Buck Showalter who said this:
“No, I don’t like when any of my guys are put in harm’s way, especially a guy throwing that hard and having some problems with his command tonight. But [its] not the first time. Obviously, it must be something that’s OK because he continues to do it. It must be condoned. I don’t know.”
Now, I take umbrage with this. No way does the Kansas City organization approve of what Ventura did. That implication by Showalter just isn’t true:
The Royals had squashed that “bad boy image” from last year and the team had moved on from those problems. Ventura has been the only one who still seems to think that reacting in this manner is appropriate. So much bad could have come from this, whether it meant another player getting hurt(and lets be honest, the Royals already have enough players injured), or starting a feud that would distract from focusing on the main goal, which is winning games and eventually, returning to the playoffs. There is no way to know for sure, but I would guess Ventura spent Tuesday night and Wednesday in meetings with teammates, the coaching staff and possibly even upper management. Ventura is at a point in his career where he needs to fix his mentality. I made a comment on Tuesday night about how Ventura’s problem was not his arm, but what is in between his ears. Adam Jones of Baltimore might have said it better than I did:
Yordano has to fix his mental approach during the game. It could be learning yoga, or talking with a therapist or even Jason Kendall’s ‘Tough Love’ approach, but a change has to happen. If it doesn’t, he will have more to worry about than just being dropped from the Royals rotation.
There are many reasons for the Royals to not give up on Yordano; he just turned 25, he has a team friendly contract that runs through 2019 and he has an electric arm that can be dominate when he wants to. But that is the thing-when he wants to, not all the time or even most of the time. Many young pitchers, especially those with dynamite stuff, struggle early in their career because they believe it is all about the velocity and not as much about the location or changing speeds. Ventura mentally seems younger than his age when it comes to maturity and hasn’t figured out how to deal with adversity. For Ventura to be a part of the Royals future, he has to learn how to let adversity roll off his back and learn from it. Otherwise, he will just be another in a long line of starters the Royals have failed to develop. This is the fork in the road; it’s time for Yordano to figure out which path he wants to take.