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Oakland A’s 2019 Community Prospect List #30: Miguel Romero is a bullpen sleeper

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Could he be the A’s next out-of-nowhere relief star?

Photo credit: Meghan Camino | Stockton Ports

Our 2019 Community Prospect List adds its final member. Here’s the complete list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. Jesus Luzardo, LHP (+78%)
  2. A.J. Puk, LHP (+7%)
  3. Sean Murphy, C (+80%)
  4. Lazaro Armenteros, OF (+1%)
  5. Austin Beck, OF (+59%)
  6. Jorge Mateo, SS (+6%)
  7. Jameson Hannah, OF (+4%)
  8. James Kaprielian, RHP (+13%)
  9. Sheldon Neuse, 3B (+12%)
  10. Parker Dunshee, RHP (+21%)
  11. Grant Holmes, RHP (+7%)
  12. Jeremy Eierman, SS (+31%)
  13. Luis Barrera, OF (+15%)
  14. Brian Howard, RHP (+1%)
  15. Greg Deichmann, OF (+17%)
  16. Skye Bolt, OF (+11%)
  17. Daulton Jefferies, RHP (+12%)
  18. Tyler Ramirez, OF (+17%)
  19. Nick Allen, SS (+50%)
  20. Wyatt Marks, RHP (+1%)
  21. Marcos Brito, 2B (+4%)
  22. Gus Varland, RHP (+7%)
  23. Kevin Merrell, SS (+18%)
  24. Tanner Anderson, RHP (+7%)
  25. Jonah Heim, C (+29%)
  26. Hogan Harris, LHP (+8%)
  27. Dairon Blanco, OF (+6%)
  28. Alfonso Rivas, 1B (+5%)
  29. Jordan Diaz, 3B (+10%)
  30. Miguel Romero, RHP (+2%)

One fun thing about the Community Prospect List is watching someone from its bottom fringes rise up to MLB and make a serious impact. We saw it last year with Lou Trivino, and you never know when another reliever might repeat that helium act.

Enter Miguel Romero. If you’re looking for a low-profile name to make a sudden, meteoric rise, then he’s one to keep an eye on. He’s relatively old for a prospect, turning 25 in April and owning just a couple months of Double-A experience, but that’s partly because he got a late start in the U.S. He draws praise for his powerful raw stuff — 95 mph fastball with life, and a good change and slider, per Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to command it all, and if he can put that together then he could quickly become a thing.

Of course, the minors are littered with pitchers who never did get their command right, and indeed Romero has hit some roadblocks already. Most recently, he began 2018 well in High-A, but then moved up to Double-A and got knocked around. Some of the struggles could have been BABIP and/or LOB% noise, but either way he still doubled his walk rate and slashed his grounders upon the move to the upper minors so it wasn’t all just bad luck.

That rough second half is the reason Romero isn’t several spots higher up this CPL, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism that we haven’t yet seen his best. The Cuban native didn’t begin pitching in the U.S. until he was 23, and he’s still only thrown 90 innings total in the minors, so he’s inexperienced for his age. He’s generally gotten aggressive assignments, from his 2017 trip to the Arizona Fall League to his quick promotion last summer, so he’s usually being challenged rather than spending too long mowing down weak competition that he’s already mastered. And he’s shown the ability to adjust to a level after initial struggles — he got smoked in High-A in his first try there in 2017, but then came back in 2018 and dominated.

Will Romero bounce back in Double-A this year, and maybe even go beyond that? We’ll have to wait for the answer. But once he does find that groove, he seems like the kind of talented reliever we could see jump up to Oakland in the blink of an eye.

Honorable mention

Bonus! Four more players were left over on the ballot, so let’s have a little Honorable Mention section. They’re in order of their final vote totals, but officially they’re all tied for 31st now that the season has started and we won’t be needing any CPL replacements.

  • Dalton Sawyer, LHP: He made the CPL last winter, but then missed all of 2018 to eventual Tommy John surgery. If the 25-year-old gets healthy and back on track then he’s a solid lefty in an organization that’s great at maximizing fringe pitching prospects.
  • Tyler Alexander, LHP: Like Romero, he’s another name who could presumably rise quickly if all goes well. The 27-year-old spent the last several seasons in independent leagues due to weed suspensions, but the talent is there and he’s in an organization desperate for a lefty reliever to step up.
  • Brady Feigl, RHP: The headlines are all about his name/face doppleganger in the Rangers system, but he also had a great pro debut on the mound after being drafted in the 5th round last summer. He dominated short-season ball and then pitched a few good games in full-season ball at Single-A Beloit, and he’s got promising stuff to back it up.
  • Lawrence Butler, OF: He won’t turn 19 until July, so he’s a long-term project, but he’s a good athlete with plenty of potential. He was the team’s 6th-round pick last summer, and the only pick they signed out of high school in the entire 2018 class.

That’s a wrap! Thank you everyone for following along these last two months and helping put together our Community Prospect List. I’ll be back in April with a finale post, full of all kinds of fun tables and charts.