The Kansas City Royals had two pitchers in the Futures Game, giving us a Pitch F/X look at Yordano Ventura (currently with AAA Omaha)and Miguel Almonte (currently with Class A Lexington). Ventura was ranked as the 4th best prospect in the Royals system by this site, while Almonte was ranked as the 9th best prospect in the system.
Unfortunately, flamethrower Yordano Ventura threw just one pitch, but it was the hardest thrown pitch of the Futures game. The following graph shows the release point and the location of the pitch (the velocity comes from Brooks Baseball’s 55 feet from home plate measure):
It appears that Ventura releases the ball very close to the center of the rubber. According to release point comparisons, he releases the ball somewhat close to the same place that Joe Blanton and Anibal Sanchez release the ball. Because I can’t find an archived version of the 2013 Futures Game online, here is a picture of Ventura’s release point from last year’s futures game, along with pictures with of Blanton and Sanchez
Ventura’s arm angle is not quite as high as Sanchez’, but not quite as low as Blanton’s arm angle. His body position is much closer to Sanchez’ instead of the more upright Blanton. The data also shows that he throws a lot harder than either Sanchez or Blanton, but we really already knew that, this wasn’t a Pitch F/X revelation. Other than movement, which even with Pitch F/X park adjustments is pretty mediocre, there isn’t much more we can take from Ventura’s one pitch.
Miguel Almonte, on the other hand, threw 14 pitches tracked by Pitch F/X, here are where his pitches were located, the velocity, and the release points by pitch classifications (MLBAM tags):
The easiest thing to notice is the inconsistency in release points. There could be some kind of error, because they were his first two pitches, and he threw them in the strike zone, but he did throw 14 pitches in the game, so they are his pitches, even if they were measured wrong by release point. I’ll just ignore those two release points though just to make sure we aren’t making a big deal out of a possible error in the system (after all, for whatever reason, it didn’t track some pitches at all in the game, so it isn’t impossible that it had some errors in the game as well).
Almonte threw three different pitches according to the pitch classifications, and the fastball looked pretty good. He pumped a few right down the middle and didn’t give up any hits. Almonte also caused two of the furthest off the plate swings of the game.
I also really liked his average fastball locations compared to other pitchers, as he showed he could work both both arm side and glove side with it, a balanced approach that the above graph also shows. The below graph shows his average velocity and locations for all his pitch types:
Obviously the curveball needs some work as he couldn’t get it glove side enough to get it to the strike zone. This isn’t anything new it appears, as his curveball seems to be his worst pitch. However, the fastball and the changeup get some pretty high marks, which makes sense considering the fastball velocity, his ability to locate it, and the location of his changeup on average. He can get the pitch down, throw it for strikes, and keep it arm side, which is what you want to see in a changeup. The pitch gets about average vertical movement, but comparatively, it seems to get a lot of horizontal movement, though looking at movement data can be tricky, especially since in varies from park to park.
Beyond the two release points that may be errors, there is a release point consistency issue. Some of his pitches were released under 5 feet, and the graph itself shows that he wasn’t exactly uniform. While this isn’t a surprise for a minor league pitcher, it is notable. He has some work to do in the release point, and it is a rather low one on average. When you look at pitchers with a similar horizontal release point, they have higher release points. In fact, there is no real good comparison for Almonte’s release point when you look at starting pitchers in the Pitch F/X era. Even with a very good changeup, he could still have some problems with platoon splits just because hitters will see the ball pretty well. Of course, this season in the minors, Almonte has been a reverse splits pitchers, meaning he has dominated lefties, while he has been good but not great against righties. This is probably because of his curveball that he can’t get over for strikes (or get low), and the lack of a slider. Most pitchers throw breaking balls when they have the platoon advantage and off-speed pitches when they don’t. Pitchers with strong breaking balls but weak off-speed pitches (the opposite of Almonte) usually have large platoon splits, while pitchers with good off-speed pitches but weak breaking balls can be reverse split pitchers because they have nothing to throw away from hitters when they have the platoon advantage. As of now, this seems to be Almonte’s problem. He can’t get the curve to move away from righties, so he has to rely on his fastball, or throw something soft inside, which is usually not a good approach.
He has a good fastball, and can be a good pitcher in the big leagues with it. However, if he doesn’t raise his release point and make it more consistent, it is hard to picture him remaining a starter. If he is unable to throw a better breaking ball, then he will be a reverse split reliever, and those usually don’t have much value because they usually aren’t used properly by managers.