Ricardo Romero | LHP | 2009 -
Notable accomplishment: All-Star 2011
Ricky Romero was born November 6, 1984 (making him the youngest man on our list) (give Brett Lawrie a couple of years) in East Los Angeles, CA. He was drafted in the first round of the 2005 draft (6th overall) by the Blue Jays, out of California State University, Fullerton. A lot has been made of the fact that Troy Tulowitzki was the next pick, by the Rockies. No one mentions that the Mariners used the third pick on Jeff Clement, so we could have done worse.
Ricky didn't exactly burn it up on his trip through the Jays minor league system. In 2008, the season before he made it to the majors, Ricky went 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA in 21 starts at Double-A New Hampshire, though he did have a 3.38 ERA in his 7 Triple-A starts. In his 81 career minor league starts he was 16-23 with a 4.42 ERA with 183 walks and 336 strikeouts in 430 innings. Not numbers that make you think you have a top of the rotation starter.
Romero became the poster boy for the 'Ricciardi doesn't know how to draft' crowd. I'll admit, I thought he wasn't really a prospect, back in 2008. I thought that a lot of pitchers had moved past him on our prospect list. His control was not great and he didn't strike a lot of guys out, so I didn't think he had much hope for a MLB career. Shows what I know.
Something changed during spring training in 2009. Then Blue Jay pitching coach, Brad Arnsberg made a small change to Romero's windup. I don't know if that's what turned things around for Ricky, but he made the major league rotation to start the season.
Romero went 13-9 with a 4.30 ERA in 29 starts in his rookie season. He walked 79 while striking out 141 in 178 innings. He was second among AL rookies in wins, 3rd in innings pitched, 2nd in strikeouts and 4th in ERA. His 13 wins was also the 2nd most wins ever for a Blue Jay rookie, one short of Mark Eichhorn's 14 in 1986. His first major league start was against a fellow first round draft pick, Detroit's Rick Porcello. Ricky got the win. He tied for the season record by throwing 24 consecutive scoreless innings (matched by teammate Roy Halladay) from June 24 to July 6. Ricky missed a few starts with an oblique strain, going on the DL April 20 returning to the Jays May 25.
Ricky improved some in 2010, winning 14 games, making 32 starts and pitching 210 innings. He brought ERA down to 3.73 his walk rate down a little and strikeout rate up a little. Ricky started the season really well, he was 5-2 with a 3.12 ERA at the end of May and finished well, going 7-2 over the last couple of months. He helped himself out by keeping the ball on the ground and getting 25 double plays turned behind him. On April 13th he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the White Sox but Alex Rios hit a home run to end the fun. He led the AL in wild pitches with 18.
During the 2010 season, the Blue Jays signed Ricky to a 5-year contract extension, worth $30.1 million with a club option for the 2016 season at $13.1 million.
In 2011, with the off-season trade of Shawn Marcum, Ricky became the number one starter in the Jays rotations. He set new highs in wins (15), innings pitched (225), strikeouts (178) while setting a new low for ERA at 2.92, 6th best in the AL. He made his first All-Star team and was 10th in Cy Young voting. He went 5-0 in August, with a 2.05 ERA and was named AL Pitcher of the Month. He finished the season on a 8-2 run. Baseball Reference has him at a 5.9 WAR for 2011, making it his best season so far but Fangraphs figures WAR differently and has 2010 as his best season at a 4.1 WAR.
Ricky seems very driven to improve and become the best pitcher he can be. He was part of the Blue Jay Winter Tour that came through Calgary last year and we had a quick interview with him and Woodman663 has a scouting report on him here.
When I did this list the first time, a few years back, I wanted to stay away from players that had less than 4 years with the team, then Paul Monitor's name came up, so that idea went out the window. The team doesn't have a long history so players can get on the list after just a couple of good years. Ricky will, hopefully, be moving up the list over the next few years. If he gets 10 wins this season, he'll be in the franchise top ten for pitching wins.
Ricky Romero's place among Blue Jay pitching leaders:
ERA (>500 innings): 7th, 3.60
Wins: 14th, 42
Win-Loss %: 7th, .592
Innings: 17th, 613
Strikeouts: 15th, 493
Starts: 15th, 93