The Washington Nationals knew they were taking a chance on drafting lefty pitcher Seth Romero – now that risk may be rewarded.
Taken in the first round out of the University of Houston, Romero, 24, had some off-field issues in college that probably led to him dropping into the Nationals’ lap as the 25th overall pick in 2017.
Earlier this week, reliever Romero was included as part of the taxi squad as he left their alternate site Fredericksburg and joined the Nationals in New York for the series with the Mets. Then on Thursday, his contract was selected as fellow lefty Sean Doolittle went on the Injured List.
“Seth has worked extremely hard to get to this point in his development and has put himself into consideration for a potential opportunity to help our Major League club,” assistant general manager, player development Mark Scialabba, wrote to Federal Baseball on Thursday – hours before Nationals picked up contract of Romero. “He’s matured in all phases and continued to make strides in the past month or so in our Summer camp and workouts in Fredericksburg. He’s starting to command all three pitches and is filling up the strike zone with his [fastball] that plays up due to some deception in his delivery.
“His changeup has evolved into an out pitch with swing and miss potential and he continues to refine the consistency of his [slider] he can throw to both handed hitters anytime. He’s demonstrated confidence and poise on the mound with each opportunity he’s had in front of our Major League players and staff,” added Scialabba, who was promoted last December and has been a fixture in Fredericksburg this summer with some of the top prospects.
Romero pitched in six games with six starts for Auburn in the New-York Penn League in 2017 and also made one start that year in the Gulf Coast League, lasting just two innings as he was groomed to be a reliever.
In his last year at the pro level, Romero made seven starts covering 25.1 innings for low Single-A Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League in 2018.
Romero allowed 20 hits and had an impressive strikeout ratio of 34 to eight in his only year with the Suns.
For his pro career, Romero had pitched to a WHIP of 1.16 and an ERA of 4.37 in the Nationals’ system.
He did not pitch last year after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Another top prospect preparing to make his Major League debut is infielder Luis Garcia, 20, who also joined the taxi squad Monday in New York.
He made it to the Double-A level with the Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League last year and appeared in 129 games.
Garcia is hitting .281 in 305 games at the minor-league level. He is a strong defender at second base and can also play shortstop and third base.
“Luis continues to impress our staff on both sides of the ball. Both Spring Training and Summer camp provided him a great opportunity to play [alongside] our veterans to learn the next stages of his defensive development. He has the range, hands, and arm to play up the middle and also has great instincts and aptitude we want to see in our infielders,” Scialabba wrote to Federal Baseball. “Offensively he’s shown the ability to consistently barrel up the baseball to all fields. He’s continuing to work on developing a more disciplined approach while maintaining his aggressiveness on pitches in the strike zone. He’s a gifted hitter with barrel control and his power is beginning to show in live at-bats.”
Fairfax native Tommy Shields, the co-field coordinator in player development with Jeff Garber, has been impressed with Garcia. Shields, who played in the majors with the Orioles and Cubs, has been in Fredericksburg this summer working with other instructors in the system.
“The first thing about Luis that impresses you is not the tools, which are abundant, but is his innate confidence,” Shields told Federal Baseball on Thursday. “Luis has a ton of confidence. He is always smiling on the field. He never lets an at-bat bother him. He is always thinking he is going to do great things. That is a tremendous tool to have.”