Tuesday, January 14, 2020

2020 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #24 LHP JoJo Romero

JoJo Romero, image- Jay Floyd
Despite a lackluster 2019 season, left-handed pitcher JoJo Romero remains a promising prospect that the Phillies hope can contribute at the big league level very soon.

The five-foot-11 200-pounder was the Phils’ 4th round draft selection in 2016. That year he helped Yavapai College, the same school that the Phillies drafted Kenny Giles from in 2011, clinch the JuCo World Series, leading the way with an 11-5 record, a 3.64 ERA and a 10.2 K/9 mark. He also tossed a complete game gem to earn the win in their title game.

After signing with the Phillies, Romero made his professional debut as a member of the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters. There, he notched a 2-2 record with a 2.56 ERA while striking out 31 and walking 11 in 45 2/3 innings.

In 2017, he got off to a terrific start with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. In 13 starts, Romero collected a 5-1 record with a 2.11 ERA and a 9.3 K/9 mark and was honored as a South Atlantic League mid-season All-Star.

Romero, who hails from the same hometown as former Phils hurler Justin De Fratus, Oxnard, CA, was promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater in late June, that year. In 10 starts for the Threshers, Romero posted a 5-2 record with a 2.24 ERA, a .223 batting average against and an 8.4 K/9 mark.

Overall for his 2017 campaign, Romero led all Phillies full-season minor leaguers in ERA with a 2.16 mark (minimum 100 innings).

In 2018, Romero posted a 7-6 record with a 3.80 ERA, a .241 BAA and an 8.4 K/9 mark through 18 Double-A starts for Reading. He really bounced back following a troublesome start for the Fightin Phils. After an April that saw him Romero go 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA and a .305 BAA, the talented youngster posted a 7-3 record with a 3.01 ERA and a .225 BAA the rest of the way until an oblique injury ended his season in July.

Last year Romero struggled throughout much of the season.  After opening the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, he had tallied a 9.64 ERA through his initial seven starts.  The Phillies demoted him back to Reading where he where he would post a 4.84 ERA and a .261 batting average against over 11 starts.  Two months after the move, Romero was returned to Lehigh Valley and had a 3.86 ERA over his final six appearances of the season there.

Overall in 24 starts at two levels in 2019, Romero sported a 7-9 record, a 5.82 ERA, a .286 batting average against and a 1.55 WHIP while striking out 92 and walking 47 in 111 1/3 innings pitched. 

His initial efforts in the International League did not seem promising, but 2019 IronPigs pitching coach Steve Schrenk asserted to me that he saw considerable improvements for Romero between his initial stretch in Triple-A and his second stint with the 'Pigs.  Velocity on his fastball was reportedly down early on, but returned over the course of the season, getting back into the mid-90's. 

The 23-year-old's pitch repertoire also features a curve ball, a quality slider and a change-up that certainly plays better when velocity on the fastball is up.  Romero has built a reputation of being a guy that can command the corners as well.

Romero, a member of the Phillies' 40-man roster, tends to draw a lot of ground ball outs. Also, he seems to steadily have a good plan and is confident on the mound, throwing each of his pitches in any count.

A ball of energy off-the field, Romero is a guy that teammates enjoy being around and can help the club by being a motivator of those around him, even when he’s not in the game.

The Phillies likely plan to have Romero stick as a starter, with a potential ceiling possibly as a mid-rotation guy.  Look for him to gain some opportunities to impress new big league manager Joe Girardi and his staff during spring training.

You can keep tabs on this year's top 25 Phillies prospect countdown by clicking this link.

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