The Runner Sports

Astros’ 2017 Draft Prospect: Seth Romero (UH), Lights Out Lefty With Issues

After the recent elbow injury (and eventual Tommy John surgery) to the pitcher many scouts dubbed “the best college arm on the board,” Clarke Schmidt (S. Carolina), the Houston Astros need to turn their attention to others. Seth Romero might be one of those scrutinized.

Schmidt had made it to many scouts’ mock drafts at the #15 spot occupied by the Astros in the 2017 First Year Players Draft, June 12.

While Tommy John surgery is not the draft death knell it used to be, it’s highly likely Schmidt’s draft slot will dip somewhat. But, hope still exists, according to Aaron Fitt of D1 Baseball, as reported in the April 26 issue of TheState.com: “(Schmidt) was a second half of first rounder, in the 15 to 30 range somewhere. He could still go in that range somewhere. I think it’s probably where he fits. Maybe he slips a little bit to a top 50 or 60 pick.”

So, while a rebuilt arm on a promising righthander might cause the Astros pause, a local lefty looms as a slam dunk option….or does he?

Pick the Risk

He’s a local product, he’s a left-handed starter, and is mocked by Baseball America as the #13 overall pick by the Miami Marlins. But, BA‘s blurb on Seth Romero borders on the curiously debatable, making the Fish appear to be proud of dismissing players’ bad behavior: “The Marlins have a long history of minimizing off-field makeup, focusing on competitive makeup on the diamond.”

Maybe so, and if Houston wants to pull the trigger on a twice-suspended player, “off-field makeup” will have to be considered heavily, especially considering the team chemistry component insisted upon by GM Jeff Luhnow and owner Jim Crane.

According to the April 20 Houston Chronicle, “Romero was suspended for two starts last season (2016), and again indefinitely on April 7 (this year) for what the school announced was multiple violations of university and athletic department policy.

“UH coach Todd Whitting said this week that a re-evaluation of Romero’s status won’t be made until next week at the earliest.”

A call placed to the University of Houston’s Daily Cougar yielded no further details.

Wherefore Art Thou, Romero?

Seth Romero grew up in nearby West Columbia (pop. 3,905), about 55 miles southwest of Houston, and enjoys fishing in his free time.

He was a four-year letterman for the Columbia High School Roughnecks, and helped them to a District Championship in 2014, and three consecutive Bi-District Championships. Romero was named First Team All-State in his senior season, after earning 7 wins, logging a 1.35 ERA, with 131 strikeouts in 62 innings (19 K/9).

In his 2015 freshman season at UH, Romero led the American Athletic Conference with a 1.94 ERA, becoming just the sixth Cougar ever to lead the league in ERA. He finished the year with a 7-4 record and seven saves to rank in the league’s Top 5, in 22 games (8 starts).

He struck out 94 in 83.1 innings, and broke Houston’s freshman record with 10 K/9, while restricting opposing hitters to a .201 average.

His sophomore season at UH (2016) gave us these numbers: 6-4 record, a 2.79 ERA in 94.1 IP, with 28 walks and 113 Ks (10.8 K/9).

Weight and See

At the time of his early-April suspension, Romero was 3-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 7 starts, with a nation-leading 76 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings, for an eye-popping 15.43 K/9.

The University of Houston junior (who just turned 21) measures 6’3″, 220 pounds, but has room to grow in a large frame. But, he would do well to include muscle in that growing. It has been reported that Romero’s 2016 suspension and “conduct detrimental to the team” was related to his possible lack of compliance in maintaining his weight and general condition. He was reinstated in March 2016, after having only missed the equivalent of two starts.

Tipping the scales to near 260 lbs a year ago, he is to be credited with working himself into an improved physical condition. Now, there’s the built-in concern about his most recent suspension, and the personal consequences and future fall-out he’ll have to address. Perhaps ironically, Romero is majoring in health.

According to this February 14, 2017, Chronicle article, “Romero said his weight loss was the result of the arrival of strength and conditioning coach Ryan Deatrick, ‘who pushes us all to the max.'”

‘”He’s never done anything to embarrass the program,” 7th-year UH coach Todd Whitting said in that same article. “There are policies, procedures and rules, and the way we go about doing things that are not optional. Since that point, he has gone forward and been a great teammate and player.”

‘Added Romero: “I definitely learned something from it – that I have to worry about the team, put the team before myself, always.”‘

When He’s Not Serving Suspensions….

If he shows a willingness to keep his body in tune (and add muscle mass), Seth Romero might be able to improve on a deft fastball that averages 93 mph, with an occasional top-out at 95.

His secondary pitches include a plus slider and a changeup in need of a tune-up, but continued work would give Romero three major league pitches. His K/9-ratio reflects his ability to not only find the strike zone consistently (and in all quadrants), but his propensity to compel batters to swing at well above-average stuff.

“My thing is when I go out on the mound, I want to stay out there as long as I can, and give up the least amount of runs,” Romero said in a recent interview. “That’s all I’m about.”

Video: Watch Romero in highlights from a recent UH game at UC-Irvine, CA (March 24, 2017)

The Wind Up

With all things being equal, Clarke Schmidt and Seth Romero would be two pitchers high on Houston’s draft day war room prospect board.

But, considering those two, things are far from equal, and the Astros’ choice has to be made to either 1) choose Schmidt, and hope his Tommy John surgery won’t hamper his eventual pro readiness, 2) select Romero, and hope whatever his personal/health issues are can be reined in, and he strives to take his talent seriously enough to nurture it, or 3) go in an entirely different direction on draft day.

Time, being the eager gossip we all know it to be, will tell. It always does.

Final Update, courtesy of Houston’s local Fox-TV affiliate, May 10, 2017:

Related: Take a Look at Houston’s accumulated Mock Drafts from 2016: Part One and Part Two

and, Houston Drafts San Antonio High Schooler, Forrest Whitley

Also, Related: Meth on the Farm: 2 Astros Suspended 50 Games

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Here I am, meeting with Nolan Ryan at Dell Diamond in Round Rock, TX. One of us is trying to convince the other to take his 90 mph fastball, and get back into the game.

Needless to say, I've decided to spend my golden years, instead, crooning Sinatra at nursing homes, while reflecting on a life well-lived in the classroom, spinning rock'n'roll in '70s radio stations, and peddling wax in the record biz.

I'm a Houston native, having attended 'Stro games in Colt Stadium, the beloved Astrodome, and Minute Maid.

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Brad Kyle