by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
We all know that pitching is a risky investment, as each pitcher appears to be a ticking time bomb. When analyzing a pitcher it feels like we should be asking when, not if, he will ultimately need Tommy John surgery and be forced to sit out a year (or more). When someone needs that procedure early in their development it often leads to him falling under the radar, as he loses precious time on the mound.
That leads us to the Twins Fernando Romero, who missed nearly all of 2014 (12.0 innings) and all of 2015 after needing Tommy John surgery (and also injuring his knee during his rehab). Obviously the Twins limited him in his first season back, but the results were eye-popping (yet didn’t generate much attention):
There’s a lot to love in the numbers alone, specifically in regards to his control. Often it is the last thing to come back, especially given the lengthy absence, but the fact that he was right back to firing strikes is impressive.
Romero also brings above average pure stuff, utilizing a fastball, slider and changeup. Here’s what was said about the pitches, keeping in mind that the secondary stuff is still developing:
“He’ll throw an 80-grade fastball at times, approaching triple-digits, and showed that not only can he sit in the 95-97 mph range, he can maintain his velocity throughout a start and a season” – MLB.com
“To complement his fastball, he also throws a power slider and a change-up that both grade out as potential future plus offerings.” – Rich Wilson of Prospect 361
That skillset helps to explain the strikeout numbers, and Romero has caught the eyes of Minnesota’s brass this spring. Here’s a quote recently published by La Velle E. Neal III of The Minnesota Star Tribune (click here for the full article):
“He’s got a big arm,” pitching coach Neil Allen said. “Not scared, aggressive. Takes the ball. Pretty impressive.”
There is question in regards to whether or not he can maintain his groundball rate, given his size (he’s listed at 6’0”). As Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 noted, “Romero stands only 6-feet tall and therefore doesn’t get natural plane on his pitches.” It’s something we’ll have to watch as he advances through the system, but even before the injury he was showing an ability to get opponents to drive the ball into the ground (1.82 GO/AO for his career). That makes it hard to discount the number.
While the most impressive number may be the walk rate, the entire skill set screams of an elite starting pitcher. There are questions, especially in regards to how quickly the Twins are willing to push him, but with expectations that he opens the year at Double-A there’s a good chance he’s ready in 2018 (even if Minnesota severely limits him once again).
Keep a close eye on him early in the season, because at 22-years old the righty could ultimately force the team’s hand and move quickly.
Current Grade – B+
Upside Grade – A-
Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Prospect 361, Fangraphs, Minnesota Star Tribune
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: