Houston right-hander Lucas Harrell could be the worst pitcher in baseball as he was 6-17 with a 5.86 ERA and 1.70 WHIP last season and before fighting for a rotation spot this spring. And, despite posting a 1-2 record with a 7.80 ERA and 2.07 WHIP during spring training (15 IP; 24 H; 13 ER; 3/7 K/BB rate), Houston’s management was desperate enough to give Harrell once last chance. That decision has proven to be a poor one as Harrell is 0-2 with a 11.05 ERA and 2.73 WHIP this season, including allowing ten runs on fourteen hits in just 7 1/3-innings of work (2/3 K/BB rate). Let’s also note that Harrell owns a pedestrian 5.23 ERA and 1.65 WHIP versus the Royals.
The other issue facing Harrell is the fact that Houston enters tonight’s game with one of the league’s worst bullpens. In fact. Houston relievers have compiled a 5.83 ERA and 1.77 WHIP this season, including a 6.57 ERA and 1.74 WHIP at home and a 5.85 ERA and 1.89 WHIP over the last ten days. Even more alarming is the fact that Houston’s bullpen has given up 50 hits and issued 24 walks in just 41 2/3-innings pitched. Harrell also won’t receive much run support from an anemic Houston lineup that is batting .189 with a .256 on base percentage this season (2.9 runs per game), including hitting .180 with a .243 on base percentage over the last seven games (2.6 runs per game).
Meanwhile, Kansas City’s No. 2 prospect, Yordano Ventura, takes the mound after throwing six shutout innings against the Rays in his first start of the 2014 campaign. Ventura garnered a 3.14 ERA with 155 strikeouts in 134 2/3-innings between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha last year, while also posting a 3.52 ERA in 15 1/3-innings (three starts) for Kansas City in 2013. Kansas City manager Ned Yost likes Ventura’s attitude more than anything else. “He’s special in that respect,” Yost said. “He’s good and he knows it. Not in a cocky way, but he’s got a lot of confidence in his abilities and what he can do. He’s not afraid to compete. He feels like he belongs here.” There is no question that Ventura is a legitimate breakout candidate after posting a 2.70 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in spring training, including striking out 23 batters in 23.1 innings of work.
With Houston standing at a money-burning 25-57 (-22.6 units) as home underdogs, including 18-49 (-22.4 units) as home underdogs of +125 or more, take the Royals and invest with confidence.