Ricky Romero: Future CY Young Award Winner?

Friday February 17th, 2012


Rob Bland:  When Ricky Romero was taken 6th overall in the 2005 MLB Draft, ahead of the likes of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce, I was shocked, and to be honest, a little bit angry.  Romero was a good pitcher at Cal State – Fullerton, but he was raw; an unfinished product that still needed a lot of work.  Tulowitzki was a tremendous defensive shortstop with plus power potential.  He was bound to be a good Major League shortstop, whereas Romero was still very much a question mark.  McCutchen is a superstar in the making in Pittsburgh, and Jay Bruce is really starting to come together, hitting 100 home runs in his first four seasons.  While these three position players often come up in conversation that they will be perennial All-Stars or future MVPs, Romero has not quite garnered that attention.  He was an All-Star in 2011, albeit after a number of players declined their invitation to participate. But will Romero ever gain notoriety as a potential Cy Young Award candidate?

Ricky Romero didn’t take the path normally taken for a high draft choice to the Big Leagues.  He struggled. A LOT.  While bad Minor League numbers doesn’t necessarily mean a prospect will be unsuccessful, it becomes apparent that Romero really struggled to throw strikes consistently.  In 2007, Romero walked 52 batters in 93 innings.  In 2008 between AA and AAA, he walked 75 in 164 innings.  An improvement, but still not that great.  With a low strike out rate, and giving up a ton of hits, it was a wonder that he was still getting promoted.   

The turning point came in 2009 in Spring Training.  Then pitching coach Brad Arnsberg pulled Ricky aside after an abysmal start, had a long talk, which led to Ricky staying with the Blue Jays through the duration of camp.  However, Ricky would not pitch in games; he would simply throw on flat ground and re-tool his mechanics, with the plan that he would pitch in AAA for the season.  He progressed so quickly, that by the end of Spring Training, he was thrown into a couple of games.  His numbers were much improved and he was able to secure a spot in the rotation.  It was an up-and-down season, but Romero made 29 starts for the Jays, throwing 178 innings, and walking 79.  

2010 saw Romero as the #2 starter behind Shaun Marcum, and he put up a 14-9 record with a 3.73 ERA.  He pitched 210 innings, giving up 189 hits, while his K:BB was 174:82.  It was a major step forward for the young left-hander, but was it enough to prove why he was taken so high in the draft?   

Romero is known as a fierce and tough competitor.  There have been many stories written about how Ricky lived on the tough streets in LA, and with the teachings of his close family, turned to sports as his outlet.  He dealt with his tough upbringing as a way to improve himself and prove what he was made of.  

Shaun Marcum was traded away for mega-prospect Brett Lawrie, and so the “ace” title defaulted to Romero.  He wasn’t just satisfied with this, and he worked to prove all of the doubters wrong.  All of those people who thought that GM JP Ricciardi and the Jays were insane for taking him ahead of Tulowitzki.  He was solid in 2011.  Romero went 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA, pitching 225 innings in 32 starts.  He struck out 178 batters to 80 walks.   

In each of his three seasons, Romero has induced ground balls over 50% of the time, with a career average of 54.6%.  This is one of the top numbers in baseball, and with a solid defense behind him, he gets a lot of quick outs.

While I believe that Romero is a very good pitcher, I don’t think he is quite an “ace”.  I believe there are only approximately fifteen aces in all of baseball, and he is not quite there.  He performs very well in “traditional” stat categories, such as wins and ERA, but upon further investigating, he doesn’t quite stack up to the best pitchers in baseball.  His K:BB for his career is 2.05:1, which leaves quite a bit to be desired.  There is also no possible way he could maintain the .242 BABIP from 2011.  In his first two seasons, his BABIP was .333 and .289, respectively.  While I think that with the way he pitches, his BABIP will stay below league norms (which is usually around .300), we should see this number regress closer to his career number of .285.  Ricky is still prone to the long ball, as he gave up home runs on 13.2% of fly balls, where the league average is around 10%.  Over his first three seasons, Ricky has accumulated a 9.8 fWAR.  Pretty good, but not great.   

Will Romero ever win a Cy Young Award?  My initial answer is no, based on three years in the MLB, and where I see him through the remainder of his career.  My take on Romero is this:  he is a very good #2 starter, that has pitched like a #1 at times.  He is the workhorse of a staff, and he is the leader of a young core that is growing as a singular unit.  He doesn’t possess the “stuff” of Brandon Morrow, but he makes up for it in guts and sheer determination.   


***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Blandy on Twitter***

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Posted on February 17, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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