Blue Jays prospect Jordan Romano pitched well above expectations in 2016 as he returned from Tommy John surgery
Throughout the month of January, Jays Journal will be counting down our list of the top-30 Toronto Blue Jays’ prospects as voted on — and debated — by our writers.
The ranking process this season has clearly highlighted that the Blue Jays’ system, as a whole, has improved drastically over the past 12 months and recovered nicely from the 2015 trades. Several prospects took steps forward from 2015 to 2016 on the field, but still saw their ranking fall slightly due to the rise of talent around them.
Coming in at number 30 on the list is Markham, Ontario’s Jordan Romano, a right-handed pitcher who has shown signs of dominance in the lower-minors but also underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015.
Name: Jordan Romano
Position: RHP Age: 23
Height: 6’4” Age: 200 lbs.
Throws: Right Bats: Right
Acquired: 2014 Draft, 10th round
Romano’s 2014 debut was all the Blue Jays could have asked for coming in as a 10th-round pick out of Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, Oklahoma). Pitching a short season between the Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues, Romano held opponents to a 1.93 ERA and struck out 34 batters over 28 innings pitched.
In March of 2015, however, Romano tore his UCL and the all-too-common elbow surgery soon followed. He rehabbed, dropped off the prospect radar for over over a year, and then returned with a bang on June 13th this season.
Starting for the Lansing Lugnuts, Romano pitched seven innings on 81 pitches in his first game back, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out seven. The rest of the season followed the same tune.
Romano carried a 2.11 ERA through 15 games for the Lugnuts and pitched 72.2 innings without any significant setbacks along the way.
On July 14th against Peoria, Romano and reliever Josh DeGraaf combined to pitch a six-inning no-hitter (the game was part of a double-header, making it a seven-inning game).
The righty handled batters from both sides of the plate very well, too, holding left-handed hitters to a .526 OPS and right-handers to .593 OPS.
“His work habits and his competitiveness and his athleticism really developed in the year (he spent recovering from Tommy John surgery),” Gil Kim, the Blue Jays player development director, told Shi Davidi in September. “He’s got a very live arm and a good breaking ball.”
That curveball does have the potential to be a legitimate asset for Romano, but his fastball can reach up to touch the mid-90s and produces swings-and-misses itself.
His fastball stands out for having a high spin rate,” said Baseball America’s John Manuel, “giving it late life through the strike zone and good finish.”
Working that fastball back to a consistent velocity will be a key for Romano moving forward, but he did show some noteworthy growth in that are between the time he was drafted and his injury. The stronger his fastball gets, the more effective that curveball will be.
Romano certainly fits the build of an Alex Anthopoulos pitcher at six-foot-four, 200 pounds, and he isn’t lacking athleticism. His downward plane could allow him to find weak contact if he’s hitting his spots and exaggerate the deception on his off-speed pitches.
Expect the Blue Jays to proceed with caution when it comes to Romano, but with a successful return and 70+ innings already under his belt, he’ll control his own destiny with his success on the mound.
One thing that might benefit Romano is the rise of the pitching prospects you’ll be seeing in the top-20 of this list, many of whom will be moving from the single-A and high-A levels up towards double-A at some point in the season. This will trickle down to give opportunities to arms from the “next wave”, which Romano is a part of.
If Romano is able to keep his control stabilized (a common issue for pitchers following Tommy John) and further develop his secondary pitches, it’s conceivable that his 2017 season could mirror the 2016 of fellow pitching prospect Francisco Rios, who opened with a brief stint in Lansing before moving to Dunedin for the majority of the year and finishing with 120.2 innings pitched (a number that may still be just above Romano’s expected ceiling).
Were it not for the missed time, Romano would rank slightly higher, and he does still have the potential to be a fast riser for the Jays.