Monday, January 29, 2007

Wherefore Art Thou, Romero?

The signing of Ramon Ortiz to a $3.1 million deal is a decision that has been admonished throughout the Twins blogosphere, including here. Many complaints have rightfully focused on the fact that Ortiz is simply not a good pitcher, and rarely has looked like one throughout his career. A number of people have also complained heavily about the fact that the Twins decided to part with a solid prospect in outfielder Alex Romero in order to make room for Ortiz on the 40-man roster. The Twins waived Romero and he was claimed by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Romero is a nice player, but I believe these complaints are overstated.

Romero, a 23-year-old switch-hitter out of Venezuela, has hit .293/.365/.410 over his five-year minor league career. He climbed aggressively through the Twins' system, and started the 2006 season in Triple-A. He struggled at that level, hitting just .250/.300/.301 before finishing the year back at Double-A and hitting a solid .284/.381/.461 there.

Essentially, Romero projects to be a versatile backup outfielder in the majors with good speed and little power. The Twins have at least three guys like that in their system already (Denard Span, Trent Oeltjen, Brandon Roberts), and they have two on their major-league roster (Lew Ford, Jason Tyner). This is all to say that Romero is hardly a unique player and he likely won't be missed as much as some people seem to believe.

One thing that will be missed in Romero is his plate discipline, which was very good throughout his minor league career. He posted a 214/203 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 1,901 minor-league at-bats, and that balanced K/BB is something that many of the other players mentioned above do not possess. However, he has hit only 32 home runs in those 1,901 at-bats and he's not an exceptional base-stealer.

Furthermore, I have heard (admittedly unsubstantiated) rumors indicating Romero had attitude problems that may have alienated him from his coaches.

Personally, a corner outfield prospect that I prefer is Doug Deeds, an Ohio State product who the Twins picked up in the ninth round of the 2002 draft. Deeds is considerably more strikeout-prone than Romero and he doesn't possess the same type of mobility, but he has also shown a much better ability to draw walks and he's a better power threat. Deeds, who holds a .298/.385/.472 line over 1,586 minor-league at-bats, has found himself stuck in Double-A for the past two years but should start the 2007 season in Triple-A and could make an impact in the majors as soon as this year.

Many people felt that it would have made more sense for the Twins to waive 33-year-old catcher Chris Heintz instead of Romero. The fact is that the Twins are more comfortable with a third catcher on their 40-man roster in case Joe Mauer or Mike Redmond should suffer an injury, and they clearly feel that Heintz is the most suitable one in their system. While he is far from an offensive weapon, the Twins seem to believe that he is a competent defender who can run the pitching staff, and that is more valuable than some people give credit for.

In summary, I think that Romero may be missed to some extent, but he tends to be a little overrated as a prospect, especially when people start making outlandish comparisons between him and Grady Sizemore or Shannon Stewart. The Twins still have several speedy outfielder types in their system, and they have a player in Deeds who projects as a better major-league hitter in my opinion. Losing a solid prospect in order to add a player like Ortiz is never a good thing, but if they had to part with someone, the Twins could have done a lot worse than Romero.

4 comments:

ubelmann said...

I agree. Romero is fungible. Even if there weren't other guys in our farm system that we could replace him with, backup outfielders aren't exactly hard to find.

Lee Henschel said...

2007 won't be a rebuilding year - The Twins cannot afford that. But they also cannot afford top-of-the-line starting pitchers.

Face it, the only way the Twins will win in 2007 is by trying a few pitchers like Ponson, Baker, Garza, Slowey, Perkins and JD Durbin. If they don't work out by the end of Spring Training, Ponson could be dropped like a cold potato, with very little loss. The ones who succeed will get a starting spot; those who don't, won't.

Ortiz will be tried in the rotation. Santana, Bonser and Ortiz, I think will give the club enough experience to help the younger pitchers out.

But don't throw out 2007 yet. Remember the cold start the Twins had last year; Turnaround is fair play.

Remember also the Twins have a great bunch of fielders helping those pitchers. And good fielders and hitters will help pitching every time.

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