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The Kansas City Royals are turning to Triple-A Omaha to patch up a starting staff ravaged by injuries, and unfortunately for American League prospect hounds it's not Jake Odorizzi or Mike Montgomery getting the call.
The Royals instead promoted less well-known left-hander Will Smith, who was 1-3 with a 4.01 ERA, five homers allowed and a 37:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 51 2/3 innings with Omaha. Smith is scheduled to start and make his major league debut versus the New York Yankees tonight in the Bronx.
Getting closer? Teheran
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Smith is your classic finesse lefty who could fit in the back of a rotation.
The 22-year-old attacks hitters with a five-pitch mix that includes a four-seam fastball, a two-seamer, a curveball, a changeup and a slider. The big knock on Smith is that none of his five offerings generates whiffs.
Acquired along with pitcher Sean O'Sullivan from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the Alberto Callaspo trade in 2010, Smith will need to keep his walks down, limit the big flies and get some good defense behind him to have success. Smith averaged only 5.80 strikeouts per nine innings in Double-A and posted a 6.62 K/9 in Triple-A, so this is a pitcher entering the majors with a small margin for error.
Based on his limited ceiling and modest production in the minors (3.97 ERA, 1.30 WHIP), AL-only owners should take a wait-and-see approach with Smith.
At high Single-A Wilmington, the Royals have an intriguing fire-baller to watch in Yordano Ventura. Listed at only 5-foot-11, 140 pounds, Ventura packs a mean punch for a little guy, hurling a fastball that generally sits in the mid- to high 90s and is known to reach triple digits.
In Wilmington's 4-2 win over Potomac Tuesday, Ventura struck out nine batters over five masterful innings. The Dominican took a no-decision after allowing one run on three hits and a walk.
In 44 1/3 innings this season, Ventura is 2-3 with a 2.84 ERA, five homers allowed and a 58:15 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His average of 11.77 strikeouts per nine innings would be a career high for a full season.
Both his curveball and changeup are still developing, but both show promise to be above-average pitches.
The soon-to-be 21-year-old has shown he can handle the rigors of starting, and the Royals will likely develop him as such until he proves otherwise.
Because of the concerns about Ventura's stature, high-effort delivery and sloppy mechanics at times, there's still a camp that believes the flamethrower will eventually wind up in the bullpen.
San Diego Padres left-handed pitching prospect Robert Erlin has not pitched since May 12 due to "tendonitis" somewhere in his body. The organization hasn't been specific about what body part is bothering Erlin.
The 5-foot-11, 160-pound southpaw was placed on the seven-day disabled list and was expected to miss only one start, so keep an eye out to see if Erlin returns to action this week.
In 33 2/3 innings with Double-A San Antonio, Erlin is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 45:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The 21-year-old has the makings of a No. 2 starter and could be an impact pitcher as early as this season if the Padres give him a chance to pitch in the majors.
Kansas City outfield prospect Wil Myers has made a seamless transition to Triple-A Omaha, hitting .400 (8-for-20) with one homer, four RBIs, three runs scored and a 1.200 OPS in his first six games. He has more walks (four) than strikeouts (three).
The 21-year-old could be on track for a post-break promotion.
In Triple-A Gwinnett's 3-1 win at Rochester Tuesday, Julio Teheran improved to 4-2 by limiting the Red Wings to one run, four hits and two walks in seven innings. The Columbian struck out three.
The 21-year-old holds a 2.98 ERA and a 32:19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42 1/3 innings with Gwinnett.
Teheran could be in line for a promotion if Mike Minor's struggles, in part thanks to his long-ball woes, persist in the majors.