Wherefore Art Thou Romero?
Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsFor the first time in his professional career, Fernando Romero found himself on multiple national prospect rankings. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranked Romero as the 68th best prospect while Baseball Prospectus saw him sneak into the top-100 at number 97. ESPN’s Keith Law has him just inside his top-50. Most of this buzz is coming off of his potential to be a starting pitcher but he’s done very well this spring as a relief pitcher.
Entering play on Sunday, Romero had yet to surrender a hit in five innings pitched. He continued that streak and added three more hitless innings to his resume.
One of the knocks on Romero has been his command. During his breakout 2016 campaign, he seemed to put it all together. He posted a 0.90 WHIP and a 1.5 BB/9. Last year, his WHIP bumped up to 1.35 and his BB/9 more than doubled (3.2 BB/9). This spring he has been focusing on attacking hitters. Even with that focus he was only successful on getting ahead of three out of the nine batters he faced on Sunday.
When Seth interviewed Romero earlier this off-season, he made it clear that fastball command is where it all starts. “That’s all we do. Try to command the fastball and get them out with the slider or change up. Doesn’t matter.”
With a fastball in the mid to upper 90s and a devastating slider, one has to wonder if Romero could help the Twins this season in a bullpen role. Former Cy Young winners like Johan Santana and David Price got their starts as relief pitchers. Romero has only pitched over 100 innings once in his career. If the Twins are in the playoff hunt, a shift to the bullpen could be one way he helps the club in 2018.
Obviously, the ultimate goal is to have Romero near the top of a rotation. A one-two punch of Jose Berrios and Romero could be quite the homegrown tandem. Twins coaches, including Ivan Arteaga, have been working with Romero to refine his delivery.
During the 2017 campaign, Romero was getting into the habit of falling off toward the first base side of the mound. This impacted his control as one can see from the numbers listed above. Coaches like Arteaga have helped him to focus on finishing with his momentum heading toward home plate.
“He doesn’t need to overthrow,” Arteaga told the Pioneer Press. “He’s got velo. He’s got power. He just needed to understand that, which I think he did over time. Watching some video and working in the bullpen, he put a lot of effort into following the plan that we have for him.”
Romero has impressed this spring and it seems like he could be destined for Target Field this season. Will it be as a starter or as a reliever? Only time will tell…
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