Royals Help Line:  All eyes on ‘Ace’ Ventura

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A look at the Royals’ prospects who are rising or falling:

“Ace” Ventura, recently promoted to Triple-A Omaha, has been on Royals’ fans radar since last summer when he dazzled onlookers with his 100-mph fastball at the Future’s Game during All-Star weekend at The K. After a slow start at Double A this year, Ventura overmatched the Texas League with a 2.34 ERA through 11 games.
Ventura, who recently turned 22, has had two solid outings (10 innings, four hits, two runs, 11 Ks) at Omaha sandwiched around a shaky one (five runs, 4 2/3 innings).
“He was a little overexcited in that second outing,” reports Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo. “But he seems to be settled in now, mixing his pitches well, and not overthrowing.”
Ventura remains on the fast track to the majors, though with rehabbing starters Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino waiting in the wings, Ventura isn’t likely to make the jump to the Royals this season. He could be a September call-up.
The only issue with Ventura now is an important one: Pitch counts. Ventura is on a 110-pitch count and he has nearly exhausted that count in all three Omaha starts, which is why he hasn’t made it past the fifth inning yet.
The Royals would like to see him finish the season around 150 innings. He’s at 84 now.
“We’re trying to get him to pitch more to contact to keep that pitch count down,” Picollo says.
Ventura, who is not on the 40-man roster, should get a serious look for the Royals’ rotation next spring.

Giavotella, a fan favorite who failed to unseat Chris Getz the past two spring trainings, is not forcing the Royals’ hand so far this season, either. Giavotella is hitting a pedestrian .260 with six homers and 34 RBIs.
“He’s not having his typical offensive year,” Picollo says. “He’s been pulling the ball too much so we’re trying to get him to use more of the middle of the field.”
Gio has been playing some third base as well as the Royals try to make him a bit more versatile. He will be 26 next month — getting old for a prospect. The clock is ticking.

The clock is ticking on Colon, 24, as well. The fourth overall pick of the 2010 draft, Colon isn’t close to a big league promotion. His average has dipped to .224 and he has just four homers and 26 RBIs.
The Royals have no choice but to stay patient with Colon and hope he’s a late, late bloomer.
“The average is a little deceptive,” Picollo says. “He has hit into some bad luck the last month or so. He’s getting a lot of quality at-bats, but the hits aren’t falling.
“We’re trying to focus on those quality at-bats with him. If you can get guys to have quality ABs about 45 percent of the time, you’re doing good. He’s a little above that, actually. We look for him to make some strides in the second half.”

A definite riser, Alexander, 23, missed all of 2011 because of shoulder surgery but bounced back to post a 2.52 ERA in rookie ball last year.
This season, Alexander has jumped almost two levels, from low A Lexington (Ky.) to high A Wilmington (Del.) to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, where he has a 2.25 ERA through just two appearances.
“Good arm with 91-93 mph fastball,” Picollo says. “He’s got a plus changeup and an improved slider. He has been a starter in the past, but we like him out of the bullpen and it seems to suit him.”

Generally regarded as a top 10 Royals prospect, Bonafacio, 20, was the Royals’ Dominican player of the year in 2010. In 2012, he started to show some of his power potential with 10 homers and 61 RBIs with a .282 average at Class A Kane County (Ill.)
This year, though, Bonafacio has been slowed by a broken hamate bone in his right wrist suffered in May. He is now on rehab in Surprise, Ariz., and should return in two weeks to high-A Wilmington, where he was off to a terrific start (.325 average, .404 on-base percentage, one homer, 20 RBIs) before the injury.

The son of former White Sox shortstop Scott Fletcher, Brian hasn’t received much attention as a rising prospect, but he could be another power source for the Royals someday.
Fletcher, 24, hit 14 homers with a .328 average at Class A Kane County in 2011, then hit 15 last season splitting time between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas. He has been slowed by nagging injuries this season but has five homers already in just 19 games.

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