Five Phillies prospects who could make their debut in 2019
2018 was the first time JoJo Romero struggled in the minor leagues. He posted a 2.56 ERA in short-season Williamsport in 2016. He then took it up a notch with a 2.16 ERA in 23 starts between Low-A Lakewood and High-A Clearwater last year.
In Romero’s first 10 starts in Double-A reading this year, he had a 4.92 ERA, 5.36 fielding-independent pitching, 1.41 WHIP, and 2.27 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 56.2 innings pitched. He turned things around once June started, going 4-2 with a 2.52 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in eight starts. Romero’s season was cut short in mid-July with an oblique injury.
Romero’s end to the season was obviously better than the first, but he still was only average overall. He finished with a 3.80 ERA, 22.1% strikeout rate, 9.1% walk rate, 1.29 WHIP, and 4.33 fielding-independent pitching. Unsurprisingly, his numbers were better on the road with a 3.21 ERA and 1.179 WHIP compared to a 4.44 ERA and 1.421 WHIP at home. Him moving away from Reading’s hitter’s haven should lead to improved numbers.
Despite his down season, Romero remains one of the top-ranked prospects in the system. He was ranked No. 6 in the system at midseason by Baseball America. Marc Hulet of Fangraphs ranked Romero No. 4 overall at season’s end. Romero still offers plenty of upside on the mound with a strong four-pitch mix highlighted by a good sinker and above-average changeup. His control still needs work, but he has mid-rotation potential.
In regards to next season, Romero could work his way into the major-league rotation. He and Ranger Suarez are the top lefties in the system with Romero usually ranked higher. Romero needs to be added to the 40-man roster after the 2019 season ends anyway, so he may get a chance in the majors by the end of the year depending on his performance.