Former Blue Jays GM JP Ricciardi has taken his share of criticism since departing from the team but the franchise does owe him a bit of gratitude for leaving behind two of the best players on the roster, Jose Bautista and newly minted “boss” starter Ricky Romero. I wanted to focus on the latter today considering you must have been on Mars for the past 18 months if you aren’t familiar with the exploits of one Jose Bautista.
Ricardo Romero was born November 6th, 1984 in East Los Angeles, California and was drafted 6th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2005 MLB amateur draft. The 2005 draft year in MLB is akin to the 2003 NBA draft that produced Lebron James and Dwayne Wade, among a few other stars. Taken ahead of Romero that year was Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Jeff Clement (ouch, the Detroit Pistons of this draft) Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Braun.
It doesn’t stop there check some of the names taken after Mr. Romero: Troy Tulowitzki, Mike Pelfrey, Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Chris Volstad, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza, Blue Jays CF Colby Rasmus, Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie. Ok, forget comparing it to the 2003 NBA draft, or any draft, that is a who’s who of young baseball talent and even a few franchise players.
Considering his home park and division Ricky Romero has been one of the best left handed starters in baseball the past two seasons. Brandon Morrow has the best stuff on the staff but Ricky Romero is our best pitcher. Let’s do a quick comparison against another top lefty who most assume is a Cy Young contender annually, let’s see if you can guess his identity based on current stats.
Pretty even across the board although it is clear that Player B is more of a strikeout pitcher while we all know Ricky Romero likes to induce groundball outs when he can. Player B is Boston Red Sox lefty Jon Lester who is having another very solid season in another tough ball park and tough AL East. Lester is often among a handful of candidates when discussing best pitcher in the game while it is very rare that Romero will get the same type of praise.
Market and city has a lot to do with the difference in perceived value but Romero is 11 months younger than Lester and performing at a very similar clip over the past two seasons. Lester was quite a bit better last year overall (5.6 WAR) but Romero held his own throwing 200+ IPs for the first time in his career (4.0 WAR).
His intense demeanour during his starts is a testament to a desire to win and his light hearted banter with teammates on off days make him an ideal leader and role model in the clubhouse for some of the future Blue Jays arms that are being stockpiled in the minor leagues. Maybe Tyler Beede was too intimidated to sign with the Jays after one glimpse of Romero’s scowl walking off the mound?
Don’t take this as campaigning for a Cy Young and I wouldn’t even call this a breakout season for Romero as most of his peripherals are identical year over year but it is just as nice to see him settling into a dependable workhorse starter for the Blue Jays. Maybe Blue Jays fans were spoiled all those years watching the legend that is Roy Halladay apply his craft that we don’t appreciate the fact Rick Romero is developing into a true number one starter.