GIF Breakdown: Dissecting Fernando Romero’s MLB Debut
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)
The Minnesota Twins promoted their No. 1 pitching prospect, Fernando Romero, to the big leagues on Wednesday. The No. 66 overall prospect was off to strong start at Triple-A Rochester, with a 2.57 ERA and an 8.57 K/9. He took the rotation spot vacated by struggling veteran Phil Hughes.
Romero held his own in his big league debut, throwing 5 2/3 scoreless innings and picking up the win. He started off strong, going 1-2-3 in the first inning. He had to pitch himself out of a two-on, one-out jam in the second, but he struck out Kendrys Morales and got a groundout to end the inning. He ran into trouble again in the fourth, but with runners on second and third and two outs he managed to strike out Morales yet again on this nasty slider to end the threat:
As you can see, this pitch starts out looking like the kind of pitch Morales usually does plenty of damage to. Instead, it dove sharply into his back foot, getting him way out over the top to end the inning.
A double play bailed him out of the fifth inning, and he was removed after 97 pitches two outs into the sixth after walking Kevin Pillar.
His overall line of 5 2/3 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K may not be perfect, but it’s worth dissecting.
Let’s take a deeper look into his arsenal and his long-term outlook on the Twins. If all he has to do is hold off Phil Hughes to keep his rotation spot, he is absolutely an arm worth paying attention to in all fantasy formats.
First, let’s start with the fastball.
Romero’s Fastball: 62 thrown/27 strikes | AVG Velocity: 95.6 mph | 6 WHIFFS
Romero’s fastball command wasn’t perfect in his debut, but when it was on he was nearly unhittable. He sat around 95-97 for most of the game, occasionally getting up to 98. The pitch has a lot of late movement, which is really on display here against Teoscar Hernandez.
He did a great job of attacking hitters on the inside part of the plate, and was able to generate a ton of check-swings. While this particular pitch finished outside of the zone, Romero had no problem painting the corner with his heater, as evidenced by these two fastballs.
That fastball to Granderson in particular is wicked, as it takes a very late dive away from his bat and right onto the outside corner. He wasn’t perfect with his fastball location in this one, only throwing 27/65 for strikes. However, his heater should have plenty of big league success as he matures and locates it better.
Romero’s Slider: 25 thrown/13 strikes | AVG Velocity: 87.1 mph | 4 WHIFFS
Romero was able to use his hard, tight slider to get Toronto hitters swinging over the top. The pitch was most effective when he was burying it in the dirt, as seen in the example to Morales above. He liked to use it as a strikeout pitch against left-handed hitters, throwing it at their back foot. He struck out Curtis Granderson twice this way:
Romero had a chance to strike Granderson out a third time, but tried to get too fancy and ended up hitting him on the foot. He’ll need to get more consistent at burying that pitch in on a left-hander if he wants this to be his out pitch. He didn’t show a ton of confidence in his changeup, so he could struggle against lefties if he can’t consistently bury that breaking ball.
Romero’s Changeup: 10 thrown/3 strikes | AVG Velocity: 90.6 mph | 2 WHIFFS
Romero’s changeup is the pitch I’m most interested in. He used it sparingly, and had a very hard time locating it. However, the pitch came in between 88-90 miles per hour with a lot of late movement. He even got this pitch up to 92 miles per hour at one point, on this nasty offering to Yangervis Solarte.
The change has a similar flight path to his heater, but with more vertical drop to it. Typically, you want to see about an 8-10 mile per hour difference between the fastball and the changeup. Romero sat at about 96 with his fastball and 90 with his changeup. He’ll want to increase the velocity difference between these two pitches to avoid allowing hitters to sit on them. He seemed much more comfortable throwing the slider as his secondary offering, both to right-handers and left-handers. He’ll need to get more comfortable offering the change if he wants to really excel as a big league starter.
Right now, he looks like a two pitch pitcher. His change has plenty of potential though, and will be the key to his success. If he can locate the changeup well, he will have a truly excellent three-pitch arsenal and would become a must-own fantasy starter. However, Romero doesn’t appear to have a ton of confidence in this pitch at the moment, which could hold him back.
Overall, I’m buying Romero in 14-team leagues and beyond right away. In 10 and 12-teamers, I’d like to see a little more consistency with his command before I’m ready to invest. It’s worth pointing out that, assuming he sticks in the rotation, his next two starts will be @STL and @LAA. Those are not fun matchups for any big league pitcher, so it’s worth keeping an eye on how he performs in those starts before buying in.