What might have been: Projecting 10 MLB interrupted careers

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 10: Players observe a moment of silence for deceased pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 prior to the Royals 2017 home opener against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on April 10, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 10: Players observe a moment of silence for deceased pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 prior to the Royals 2017 home opener against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on April 10, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura during 2016, his final season. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura during 2016, his final season. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Yordano Ventura

Ventura probably ranked as the ace of the Kansas City Royals’ rotation when he died in January of 2017. Ventura was alone behind the wheel of his Jeep when it left a Dominican Republic road and overturned; Although there were no witnesses to the accident, it is believed he died on impact.

Between his callup late in 2013 and his death, Ventura had run up 38 victories for the Royals, not counting his win in the 2014 World Series. His career-best was a 14-10 record in 30 starts in 2014.

As with Bostock, Ventura died so early in his career that the best way to approach an assessment of what might have been being by the use of comparables. In the case of Ventura, the two closest are Gene Conley and Scott Bankhead.

Both, however, are problematic, even among MLB pitchers.

Conley was a right-hander for the 1950s Milwaukee Braves. Between his age 26 season – Ventura’s age when he died – and his departure from the majors in 1962, Conley won 58 games, lost 68, and pitched about 1,066 innings working both as a starter and in relief.

Bankhead pitched for several teams in the 1980s and 1990s. Between his age 26 season and his retirement (at age 31), he compiled a 19-16 record in about 275 innings.

Obviously, none of those totals are especially remarkable, nor do they suggest that Ventura was on the way to a great career when he died.

The reasons probably have to do with the particular vagaries that always surround pitchers.

In Bankhead’s case, the vagary was health. Plagued by persistent arm problems, he never made double figure starts for any of his four teams, eventually retiring at age 31.

Conley was an even more unusual case. A dual sport athlete, he was also a forward for the Boston Celtics. After “giving up” pro basketball for baseball in 1961, Conley went back to hoops following the 1962 baseball season, trying to make it with the New York Knicks.

One year later he was out of both sports.

Ventura was no basketball player. But he was as subject to arm problems as any other hard thrower, so it’s entirely plausible that his career could have ended in his early 30s, as did Conley’s and Bankhead’s.

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If not, he would be preparing today for his age 31 season,  either with the Royals or elsewhere.