Almost exactly two years ago, the Blue Jays drafted Markham native Jordan Romano in the 10th round out of Oral Roberts University, and signed him almost right away for a well-below slot $25,000. He spent most of the summer in Bluefield, making 11 relief appearances that were generally extended outings of 2-3 innings, almost mini-starts. Overall, he posted an impressive 2.16 ERA in 25 innings, with 33 strikeouts and 11 free passes. However, before the 2015 season started, he required Tommy John surgery and has been recovering since.
Until Monday that is, when he was assigned to Lansing with the Lugnuts needing an extra starter due to a doubleheader. And did he ever make a statement that he was back, going all 7 innings on just 81 pitches and facing just one over the minimum (a home run after a bunt single was erased on a caught stealing, those being the onlt two hits). He also struck out seven, though five of those were the first time through the order and he only had two after that.
As the data in the chart below indicate, the outing was basically a textbook clinic on pitching: he pounded the zone, got ahead, missed bats, and induced weak contact with almost two-thirds of balls in play being either on the ground or popped up. The final piece thing that was really encouraging was his velocity, as he hit as high as 96 on the Lansing gun (range 90-96). The gun was probably a little hot on the high end, but even adjust downwards a bit, that's still very good. He also worked with offspeed in the low-80s.
Besides Romano, there was some other promotions in the farm system. Gunnar Heidt was moving up to Dunedin, and John La Prise was sent to Lansing. La Prise was one of last year's more intriguing draft picks to me out of the University of Virginia, as a hitter with a good track record who missed most of the year with injuries. I wondered if he could be assigned to Lansing directly out Spring Training (if fully healthy), but he's there now and also had a great debut, doubling in his first professional at-bat and going a perfect 2-2 with 4 walks and a HBP over the doubleheader. I wonder if the plan was to send him to Vancouver, but with Cavan Biggio drafted and that being his mostly destination and in line for the lion share's share of the playing time, a more aggressive placement was necessitated.
Speaking of Vancouver, their season gets underway Friday and while the roster hasn't been officially announced, a bunch of players were assigned to to their online roster. They now have roughly 30 active players assigned, of the 35 maximum. n the pitching side, the headliner is Justin Maese, who skips right over Bluefield. He's joined by Matt Smoral and Dalton Rodgriguez as the most interesting prospects. Once they sign, I imagine T.J. Zeuch and Zach Jackson (if they want to try him as a SP) will be added in short order. One pitcher not there is Danny Young, who was promoted to Lansing and pitched last night.
In terms of position players, Rodrigo Orozco is the most significant name, though he should be joined shortly by J.B. Woodman and maybe Josh Polacios, which would be a really interesting outfield. The infield actually looks iteresting already with Yeltsin Gudino, Christian Williams, Bryan Lizardo and Deiferson Barreto interesting follows. Plus, Biggio likely to follow too. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see what if other promotions follow, particularly with so many pitchers in Lansing potentially presaging some promotions.
Affiliates Above Lansing
Drew Hutchison had a pretty typical start, 92-94 with his fastball, good strikeout numbers but touched up for a few runs. He was really missing bats, with 16 whiffs or one of every six pitches. Bo Schultz has also had a couple of very good relief outings, with his fastball 95-98 on the Buffalo stadium gun. If he's got things figured out, he could be an option to bolster the major league pen.
The other standout outing was Conner Greene, who looked more like the guy who dominated last year. His control wasn't the sharpest and he didn't pile up ground balls like he has done a lot of the year, but the peripherals were a lot better. In particular, he had his top shelf velocity, sitting 92-96 on the Port Charlotte stadium gun, touching a couple 97s. Again, that might need a little grain of salt, but it's a good sign nonetheless.
Tom Robson had a decent bounce back outing after a poor and short two inning start four days earlier. Across the board, the metrics were pretty mediocre, but he was sitting 92-95 on the stadium gun, so it least the stuff is definitely there. Jon Harris pitched the second half of Monday's doubleheader, and had a decent outing though a little messier than usual with three free passes and both hits being extra bases. But he did miss more bats than usual, and his fastball touched 94/95 on the stadium gun.
Finally, last night Angel Perdomo had an up and down start, but it was really a tale of two outings. After the first batter of the 4th inning, he had 6 strikeouts against just 1 hit with 2 walks. After that, his start went totally downhill, and uncharacteristically he gave up not only a pile of hits but a bunch of hard contact that was squared up hard. That lead of six runs, though two of those were inherited runner that scored on a 3-run bomb to the first batter after he left.