Expectations could not have been higher for Yordano Ventura entering the 2015 season. Fresh off a rookie year in 2014 that saw him throw seven shutout innings in Game Six of the World Series and post a 3.20 ERA over 30 starts, the Kansas City Royals let James Shields walk to the San Diego Padres and handed Ventura a five-year, $23 million extension before the year. Ventura was handed the ball on Opening Day, effectively signaling his coronation of the ace of the Royals.
After 14 starts, it appears that coronation was rushed. This afternoon, the Royals announced that Ventura has been optioned to Triple-A Omaha. At the time of his demotion, Ventura had made 14 starts and posted a 5.19 ERA on the season. Despite maintaining an average 96 MPH average fastball velocity, and seeing his strikeout and walk rates remain similar to his stellar 2014 campaign, Ventura has struggled to turn in consistent performances on the season. His most recent start was a four-plus inning, six-run disaster against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Injuries, emotional outbursts, and general poor body language have plagued Ventura all season. He was at the center of two bench-clearing brawls in the early going of the year, and has looked dejected on the mound frequently throughout the year. As the Royals send Ventura down to regain the focus and poise that allowed him to excel in 2014, Jason Vargas will assume his spot in the starting rotation. As the Royals continue to hold the best record in the American League by a wide margin, this move should not hurt their playoff chances much, but will give Ventura a chance to work back towards the form he showed last year.