Young Giants' Arm: Sergio Romo

Sam CorunContributor IMarch 21, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 17:  Sergio Romo #54 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at AT&T Park on June 17, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Sergio Romo, drafted in the 28th round of the 2005 amateur draft by the San Francisco Giants, began his career in low A ball as a starter and had success in 68.2 innings pitched (14 GS), striking out 58 batters (8.5 K9) and only walking nine (1.2 BB9).  He dealt a 2.75 ERA for Salem in 2005, but allowed seven home runs and 70 hits which could have been a factor in why he was changed to a reliever in 2006.  Between starting and relieving, he racked up 103.1 innings in the Sally League—by far the most innings he’s pitched in his career over the span of a season.  His numbers remained similar to his first year, but with an improvement in hits per nine innings allowed from 9.2 to 6.8. 

At San Jose, his third full minor league year, Romo found his niche as a late game reliever.  Over 66.1 innings, he shredded the competition with a 6-2 W-L record, 1.36 ERA, and a supreme 14.4 K9 (106 total K’s).  He only walked 15 while further reducing his H9 to 4.7.  As a proved reliever, Romo was promoted to being primarily a closer in 2008: finishing out 21 games and saving 11 in 27.0 innings pitched for AA Conn.  He passed through the Eastern League with a 4.00 ERA and continued to terrorize opposing hitters, striking out 30 and walking only seven (4.29 K/BB). 

After a brief warm-up in AAA Fresno, the right-handed pitcher was promoted to Major League Baseball for the remainder of 2008 and featured an 86-92 MPH fastball that fooled hitters, providing some impressive swooping horizontal movement.  It glides up and away from left-handed batters and into right-handed ones.  The combination of his jumping fastball and a couple of other off-speed pitches that majorly hook away from right-handed batters make for a premium core of pitches.  Romo’s nontraditional stuff played well in his Rookie year, sporting a 2.12 ERA, 3.31 fielding independent pitching, and 0.71 walks plus hits per inning pitched. 

In 2009, the 27-year-old used his slider almost twice as much as in his rookie contest while reducing the amount of times he tossed his heater.  He condensed the rise on his slider and achieved a glowing 2.50 runs above average per 100 pitches for the year. 

In addition, the fastball picked up velocity, especially in the mid-later portion of the season when he consistently hit 89-93 on the radar.  Lacking a pitch containing vertical drop, Romo got more consistent controlling his curve ball velocity and improved the dipping action to compliment its already tremendous horizontal slice. 

He also mixes in a low 80s change, which he started to use more during the later part of the ’09 season.  This will be a huge upgrade to his 2010 arsenal if he can mask it like and combine it with his fastball.  

Romo improved in many aspects of his pitching last season in comparison to his rookie year, but his ERA jumped from 2.12 to 3.97.  In 08, his batting average on balls in play was a minuscule .171; which is well below league average.  That increased to .346 in ’09, which was likely due to opponents getting a fair amount of strike zone contact.  

Counting on the continued improvement of his pitches, a likely recession in batting average on balls in play, and an ability to entice hitters into chasing, Romo should post quality numbers in 2010.  Plus, he improved mightily against left-handed batters in K/BB for 2009, raising his ratio from 2.00 to 3.71.  Last season from September on, Romo limited other teams to just one run in nine innings.

2010 Prediction:  43.0 innings, 48 K’s, 15 BB, .211 BAA, 1.07 WHIP, 2.51 ERA