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:
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