== I never said he wouldn’t be a valuable RH bench bat … ==
We’ve done plenty on the “Left-Handed Tilt” that Robinson Cano pointed out upon arrival. His solution — spend some dough on Nelson Cruz — didn’t make it out of committee, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t right.
Despite some encouraging reports from the bat of Jesus Montero, it soon became clear that it was “too much, too fast” to expect the full-immersion tough-love campaign to bring Mr. Zero Expectations all the way up to MLB contributor in a few weeks.
And, we’ve never doubted that “next in line” among the in-house options was Stefen Romero.
What we have doubted, contrary to other voices, is that Romero is ticketed to an everyday role in the majors as an impact hitter.
Put differently: I would not project Romero as an impact hitter in the majors without a plateau-leap that is exceedingly rare for players over age-23.
A: Jose Lopez Disease.
Like Romero, Lopez had a lot of skills, moderate power, and was good at avoiding strikeouts. Scouts liked him.
But he sapped all the value out of his skills by refusing to take walks. He walked less than 5% of the time in the minors (the 10-year MLB average is 8.4%), and, predictably, walked even less in the majors (3.7%). Except for sluggers, most hitters walk less in the majors than in the minors.
By neither striking out nor walking, Lopez made himself dependent on reaching base on balls-in-play. Right-hand hitting non-speedy guys will not make their living on balls-in-play. Indeed, his BABIP in the majors was .276 and he was done as a regular by age-26.
Now, Romero walks a bit more than Lopez did (6.2% vs. 4.8% in the minors), but also strikes out more (16.1% vs. 10.2%). So they both end up at exactly 85 on my PSA+ scale, measuring ability to avoid non-random outs (100 is generally what a strong prospect would show).
How do you make up for that? Produce a lot of power, or beat the odds on BABIP with speed or skill or both (Ichiro would be the model for the latter). Romero is not Ichiro.
So the issue with Romero-the-everyday-player is whether he would slug enough to make up for the reluctance to walk (Lopez never did), or whether he would figure out how to draw more free passes (Lopez never did that either).
I don’t rule either out (or both), but I haven’t seen it yet.
But Romero-the-role-player? A bench bat with versatility and more pop than Willie Bloomquist?
Sure, we’ve got no problem with that. Romero has spent considerable time at second base, although he’s rather super-sized for the role (6-2, 220), and played most of 2013 in left field. He’s only played 27 games at third, but ought to be able to handle it, as well as either corner OF slot.
And let’s straighten another thing out: keeping Nick Franklin on the bench does not solve the “left-handed tilt,” nor does having Abraham Almonte as part of a four-OF rotation. Both are switch-hitters, but neither one is an above-average bat hitting right-handed.
Nor has Franklin ever played a professional inning in the outfield. I see the virtues of keeping Franklin on the 25-man roster as a “Ben Zobrist,” but I don’t see it happening in real life. If they start playing him in the OF in AAA, then we might see it, but it seems to me that they’re trying to boost Franklin’s trade value as a middle infielder.
Verdict on Romero as everyday player: Not 2Legit unless and until we see a plateau-leap