The 2017 season began on a tragic note for the Kansas City Royals as the team’s promising young 25-year-old pitcher Yordano Ventura died as the result of a car accident in his native Dominican Republic on January 22, 2017. Signed as a free-agent at the age of 17 in 2008, Ventura was a top minor league prospect and in 2012 played in both the Carolina-California League and the All-Star Futures Game. He made his big league debut in September of 2013 and led the Royals with 14 victories in 2014 with a 3.20 ERA in 183 innings. He started the second game of the 2014 ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim giving up one run in seven innings as the Royals defeated the Angels 4-1.Ventura pitched 5.1 innings in Game Two of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants giving up two runs on eight hits in the team’s 7-2 victory and helped force Game Seven pitching seven shutout innings in Game Six with an “R.I.P O.T #18” inscription on his hat as a dedication to his friend and Dominican countrymen Oscar Tavares who has died in a car accident two nights before the game.
Ventura signed a five-year $23 million contract at the beginning of the 2015 season and was named the team’s Opening Day starter. He tied for the staff lead with 13 wins and started games two and six of the ALDS versus Toronto and took the only Royals loss in the team’s World Series victory over the Mets. He suffered through an erratic 2016 season going 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA and was involved in a memorable ballyhoo with Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado after drilling him in the ribs with a 99 MPH fastball. Known as an emotional young player who was loved by his teammates poor Yordano didn’t live long enough to fully mature.
After winning the 2015 World Series the Royals struggled through an injury riddled 81-81 campaign, losing All-Star third baseman Mike Moustakas to a torn ACL just 27 games into the season. All three starting outfielders Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Paolo Orlando spent time on the disabled list. Closer Wade Davis was traded to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Jorge Soler.
Already a close knit club, the Royals will look to the loss of Ventura for inspiration.
“You hate to say that tragedy brings us all together, but I think it does,” said pitcher Chris Young to MLB.com. “I think it will bring us closer. This group of guys is truly remarkable. We all truly care about each other. We have a unique bond. And I think we’re seeing that now as we mourn the loss of one of our brothers.
Kansas City Royals Prospects to Watch
Prospect to watch: Fire-balling Josh Staumont fastball has been clocked at 102 MPH and he struck out 167 batters in 123 combined innings at single-A Wilmington and AA North West Arkansas.