It's not as if Ryan Verdugo was the afterthought in the trade that brought him over from the San Francisco Giants, but it's clear he wasn't the main prize. In the end, he might be just the value the Kansas City Royals were hoping for.
When Royals general manager Dayton Moore shipped Melky Cabrera last offseason to the Giants for a pair of pitchers, Jonathan Sanchez was the catch of the day. Cabrera, to that point, had just offered up a career year with nothing in his history to show it would happen again. The same could be said of Jonathan Sanchez, a volatile player who could throw a no-hitter and follow it up by a three-inning disaster.
It's no mystery how this deal has turned out. The Giants have a legitimate MVP candidate in Cabrera, who leads the National League in hits and runs and is hitting .359 on the season. As for Sanchez, he's now pitching for the Rockies and has a historic place as one of the worst pitchers in Royals history to show for his time in KC.
Enter Verdugo, the "other" pitcher in the Royals-Giants trade. It's not as if he was a throw-in without any real value. In fact, a quick look at his minor league numbers show why Moore wanted him added to the deal. The LSU product was a 9th round choice in the 2008 MLB Draft and became a very solid reliever for the Giants low-end farm system. Last season, the Giants converted him to a starter as he climbed to AA and the results were solid for his first year after the transition: 8-6, 4.35 ERA, 133 Ks in 130 innings.
The Royals front office clearly saw something in Verdugo and the transition he was making into a starter, and that was a good thing because he has only continued to blossom as a starter in the Pacific Coast League for the Omaha Royals at AAA. Verdugo currently has a 7-2 record with a 3.45 ERA -- nearly a full run lower than last season -- with 80 strikeouts and 46 walks in 94 innings. Perhaps the single greatest statistic for Vergudo is this: only 73 hits allowed in those 94 innings. That's a great ratio.
However it's also clear that he's still growing. Not only are the walks too high, but he's also prone to giving up the long ball. He's given up 15 this season and that's simply far too many for success. However, it's also important to remember that this is his first season above AAA and only his second as a starter. Verdugo is still a work in progress, a man learning to adjust not only to varied rhythms as a pitcher but against stiffer competition as he does so.
Looking back at his numbers, it's clear that Verdugo has always kept hitters at bay and it's that number that will likely give him eventual success in the majors. In just over 337 innings of career work in the minors, Verdugo has allowed only 258 hits. The home runs per nine innings ratio is also an anomaly compared to his career body of work.
In other words, expect Verdugo to come on strong once he adjusts to the level of competition and continues to grow as a starter. The Royals might just enjoy a nice starting option from the Melky trade after all.