Name: Miguel Romero
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 185
How Acquired: Signed as an international amateur free agent on Feb. 1, 2017.
Just before the start of spring training last season, the Oakland A’s inked two international free agents from Cuba: RHP Miguel Romero and OF Enrry Pantoja. Pantoja spent his pro debut season with the A’s Rookie ball teams, but Romero was challenged with assignments in full-season ball and a trip to the Arizona Fall League. Can the hard-throwing right-hander make an impact on the A’s staff in the near future?
Romero was part of a big 2016-17 July 2nd class for the A’s that included several fellow Cubans, including RHP Norge Ruiz and OF Lazaro Armenteros. Romero came to the A’s with a lower international profile than Ruiz and Armenteros, but came armed with significant talent. The 22-year-old had some professional experience before signing with the A’s, and the hope was that he would be able to spend the majority of the season with the A’s full-season A-ball clubs.
Unfortunately, like with Ruiz, Romero found himself in the Dominican Republic, waiting on a visa to be approved until midseason. While he waited, he worked out at the A’s Dominican complex and made his organizational debut with the A’s DSL team. Romero finally came to the States in late June and made one appearance with the AZL A’s before receiving his first full-season assignment with the Low-A Beloit Snappers.
Romero’s stay in the Midwest League was a short one. He made three solid appearances for the Snappers, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks in eight innings. On July 17, he joined the High-A Stockton Ports and would remain with Stockton the rest of the season.
Pitching out of the bullpen in a long relief role, Romero made eight appearances with the Ports. Romero’s first four appearances with the Ports were rough, as he allowed 14 runs in 8.2 innings. He righted the ship over his final four appearances, not allowing a run over 9.2 innings. He finished his stint with Stockton with a 6.87 ERA and a 25:9 K:BB in 18.1 innings pitched.
The A’s wanted to keep Romero’s progress going during the fall, so he participated in the A’s fall Instructional League and in the Arizona Fall League. His numbers in the AFL weren’t pretty: 7.59 ERA and 20 hits allowed in 10.2 innings pitched. However, eight of the nine earned runs he allowed came in two of his nine appearances. Romero improved as the league progressed, throwing more strikes and getting out of some jams.
Romero has the potential to be a force out of the bullpen in the big leagues. The athletic right-hander can run his fastball up to 95 MPH and he has some life on the pitch. Fastball command is his biggest issue right now, but he did see some improvement in that area as the season went on. Romero has two potentially plus secondary pitches: a Bugs Bunny changeup and a sharp slider.
“His change-up is kind of Fernando Rodney-esque in terms of it having a swing-miss component to it,” A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens said during a midseason interview. “He has a nice slider. He is more of a power pitcher with a good change-up. Really excellent athlete. Outstanding physicality to him. He’s exciting.”
Romero had a lot to deal with personally last season as he transitioned to the US and to the American-style of baseball (for more on Romero’s transition and his progress in the AFL, see this Q&A I did with A’s minor league pitching coach Steve Connelly for The Athletic; sub required). Romero should have an easier time just focusing on baseball in 2018 now that he is familiar with the A’s organization and with the style and level of play.
There is a chance the A’s will try to stretch Romero out into a starting role, but he will move more quickly through the system as a power reliever. If he is strictly in the bullpen, Romero could start the year with Double-A Midland, but if the A’s want to lengthen his appearances, he is more likely to begin the season with Stockton. Romero will turn 24 in April.
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