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May 172010

In preparation for my pre-draft top-30 prospect ranking, I’ll be looking at some prospect whose stock is on the rise. First up is Austin Romine.

Austin Romine is off to a very strong start at Double-A Trenton. He’s hitting .296/.372/.472 in his first 28 games while dealing with some dead arm problems that have limited his time behind the plate. Below is his full stat line:

Year Age Tm Lg Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2008 19 Charleston SALL A 104 436 407 66 122 24 1 10 49 3 0 25 56 .300 .344 .437 .781
2009 20 Tampa FLOR A+ 118 481 442 61 122 28 3 13 72 11 5 29 78 .276 .322 .441 .763
2010 21 Trenton EL AA 28 121 108 17 32 10 0 3 22 1 0 12 24 .296 .372 .472 .844
4 Seasons 251 1041 959 146 277 63 4 26 144 15 5 67 159 .289 .338 .444 .782

Romine’s chief concern coming in to the season was a low BB%, which he increased from 6% last season to 10% in the first part of 2010. He’s elevated his strikeout rate as well, and hitting a bit more for extra bases.  Close observers of Romine’s 2009 season would expect him to behave a bit more like a slugger. While his .276/.322/.441 line looks modest, Romine was in fact one of the better power hitters in the Florida State League last season. The league played particularly well to pitchers, and Romine sat 4th in total bases and 8th in slugging.

Although the sample sizes are small, his 2010 season may also be masking a much stronger performance from Romine. Romine has hit .340/.386/.566 away from Waterfront Park, and .255/.359/.382 at home. Trenton has traditionally played out very tough for power hitters early in the season, as a cool wind blows in from the Delaware River in the spring. Romine’s peripherals have actually been much better at home (9 walks at home, 3 away), but he has struggled to hit for extra bases. Look for that to change when the weather warms up.

The dead arm reports are a little more of a concern to me than has mostly been reported. Sometimes dead arms happen because a player is just having a bad week. Sometimes they happen because a player is injured. There’s a non-zero chance right now that Romine could go down with a serious throwing injury. Tommy John surgery for catchers isn’t all that uncommon. But really, this is just speculation on my part. The Yankees have been DHing Romine, and even let him catch this weekend, so don’t make too much of it yet.

Romine could very well make the transition to being a real slugger. Unlike Jesus Montero, a much superior hitter despite his slow start, Austine Romine has real potential to be an average or better defensive catcher in the near future. He has stepped up his offensive game at every stop along the way, and there’s no reason to believe this trend won’t continue.

However, Jesus Montero’s slow start at Triple-A presents a real dilemma for the Yankees. Austin Romine is probably ready defensively for the major leagues. Jesus Montero is probably not, and isn’t hitting enough to be considered any kind of MLB option at this point. If Romine continues to hit, a Triple-A promotion could put him in a position to fill in for an injured Jorge Posada or slumping Francisco Cervelli. This is a very real scenario that the Yankees should consider preparing for. It will also put Romine in a position to take Posada’s spot next season, or at least split time with him. My point? Unless Jesus Montero picks up his hitting (it is very probable that he spends a season adjusting to the upper levels, but that’s another post), Austin Romine may very well jump him in the catcher depth charts.

Photo Credit: Mike Ashmore

9 Responses to “Rising: Austin Romine”

  1. I agree about Romine jumping ahead of Montero, if Montero doesn’t start hitting. Which is suppose to be Montero bread and butter.
    Also if Montero still needs to be in AAA next year, wouldn’t he be blocking Romine from going to AAA?
    I bet the Yankees didn’t see that one coming, if it come to fruition. They probably expected Montero to hit in AAA and probably had plans for him to be on the ML roster out of ST 2011.
    Now it’s still very early in the season but Montero has been awful.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Matt Imbrogno Reply:

    If Montero has to repeat AAA and Romine is ready to move up, they’ll likely just share C/DH duties like they did in Tampa last season.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    EJ Fagan Reply:

    I think the more likely possibility is that, if Montero is still struggling mid-season, Montero goes back down to Double-A, and Romine stays at Triple-A. The Yankees know that both suffered when they were sharing C/DH for two years.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  2. I think Romine was always ahead of Montero to Yankee brass and people in the know.Doesn’t mean Montero won’t be a good hitter.
    I have felt for 2 seasons now that Brandon Laird (a guy who couldn’t make most top 35 Yankee prospects) was the most underrated kid in the entire organization.
    Another underrated kid is Damian Taveras who I’ve read has tremendous power and better receiving skills than Montero.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Ahead of Montero as a prospect? Never. Maybe ahead of him as a catcher.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    EJ Fagan Reply:

    Let’s hold off on Laird until Thursday :)   (Quote)

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  3. 21 years old, with a “dead arm”? A catcher? Not good….  (Quote)

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  4. To respond to Greg’s short post at Pending Pinstripes:

    By no means am I suggesting rushing Austine Romine. The Yankees consider 60ish games at a level plenty enough for a player who is excelling to earn promotion. If Romine gets to that point and is still hitting this well, they should do it, because Romine could be a very useful player to hang around in Triple-A in case of an MLB need. Chad Moeller is the definition of a not useful player hanging around in Triple-A in case of an MLB need. If Posada goes down and Francisco Cervelli’s deal with the Devil ends, the Yankees will need a replacement player who won’t hit .150. Romine could definitely be that guy.

    Plus, it’ll put him in the mix for a starting spot in 2011, and the Yankees definitely need one of their three young catchers to step up and earn some major playing time next year.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

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