Dec
10

Prospect Profile: Austin Romine

By

 This profile goes out to Nick-YF, who won a cheesy little contest a few weeks ago.

 

Austin Romine   |   C

Background
Romine was raised by a baseball family in El Toro, CA, an Orange County suburb. His father Kevin was a reserve outfielder for the Red Sox from 1985 to 1991, amassing a .251-.306-.325 line in 331 career big league games. His older brother Andrew was Dustin Pedroia’s successor at Arizona State, and had a respectable 3-yr career as the Sun Devil’s starting shortstop. He was drafted by the Angels in the 5th round of this year’s draft.

Romine did nothing but mash with El Toro High School, hitting .418-.535-.861 with 5 doubles and 10 homers in 26 games as a sophomore, then .407-.458-.648 with 8 doubles, 1 triple and 4 homers in 19 games as a junior. Romine hit .493-.575-.522 with 10 doubles, 1 triple and 3 homers in 22 games as a senior despite being pitched around and having to deal with a nagging hand injury. He also chipped in 2 perfect innings with 2 strikeouts on the mound.

Romine had a commitment to follow his brother to Arizona State, but the overall feeling was that he was very signable and would be willing to forego college. The Yankees selected him in the second round (#94 overall), and he agreed to a $500,000 signing bonus on the day of the signing deadline, roughly $131,000 over slot. He is the highest drafted player El Toro history by nearly 15 rounds.

Pro Debut
Romine managed to squeeze in a one game cameo with the Rookie Level GCL Yankees after signing, going 1 for 2 with a walk, an RBI, 2 runs scored and a strikeout. He doubled in his first professional plate appearance. He participated in Fall Instructional League as well as the Dominican Instructional League this offseason.

Strengths
Romine is a well-rounded catcher, but his defense is a tick better than his offense. His best tool is his top-of-the-line arm strength, which allows him to consistently rip off 1.75-1.80 pop times, as close to an 80 arm (on the 20-80 scale) as you can get. His footwork and receiving skills are solid but unspectacular, and should improve as he gains experience. Romine’s scouting video is here.

On offense he’s primarily a gap hitter that will occasionally run into one. As he fills out his 6’1″, 195 lb frame he should start turning some of those doubles into homers. He makes consistent contact and should post high batting averages for a catcher (think .280-ish). Romine is very athletic for a backstop, and there’s no reason to think he’ll have to move out from behind the plate in the future, barring injury.

Weaknesses
Romine’s all-around game is very solid, particularly compared to other catchers his age. He does need to improve his footwork behind the plate to take that next step towards become an elite receiver. His swing can get long at times and he can fall into ruts where the strikeouts come in bunches. He doesn’t run well either, but he’s a catcher so that’s expected and acceptable.

Romine had Cal Ripken disease in high school, changing his batting stance on a near day-by-day basis. The Yankees appear to have gotten him to settle on a stance, and that should help keep his swing consistent. Romine had surgery as a senior to repair an injury to his left thumb, which was originally misdiagnosed as a torn ligament. It remains to be seen how that will affect him in the long haul, but it didn’t seem to bother him after turning pro.

2008 Outlook
The Yankees have three talented catching prospects in the low minors between Romine, Chase Weems and Jesus Montero. Romine is by far the most polished and full-season ready of the three, and is likely to start 2008 as Low-A Charleston’s everyday catcher unless the thumb injury continues to be an issue.

My Take
Romine falls into the Zach McAllister category of “a better prospect than people realize.” Usually catchers will have some kind of wart (he can’t hit, he can’t throw, he can’t do this, etc), especially young catchers, but Romine doesn’t seem to have a glaring weakness. Jorge Posada just resigned for four years, which is a near perfect timetable for Romine. I’ll be surprised if he needs more than a full year at any level, and I expect him to be able to handle the fast track given his baseball pedigree (never underestimate bloodlines). I’m sure the Yanks will be uber-cautious with him, especially with the hand injury. It’s funny, looking at what he did in his only professional game, it’s essentially a microcosm of the kind of player he is.

Categories : Prospect Profiles
  • mehmattski

    If Jorge Posada can hang on and produce well for the next two seasons, the Yankees should have plenty to choose from when looking for his replacement. I’m looking forward to following some genuine position player prospects for the Yanks in the next few years.

  • dan

    Hey, he’s batting .500 as a pro, what’s not to like?

  • Beau

    So… with his footwork not being great has it affected his ability to gun out base runners? He obviously has an insanely strong arm.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      That’s a good question and it’s hard to say. All the research I did said that no one even bother to try running on him in high school. We’ll have to wait until 08 to get the answer to this.

  • b/c

    Does he project to have posada type power or is he more of a doubles threat.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      Doubles power. Jorge’s a freak, catchers that hit like that are truly once-in-a-decade talents.

      Maybe at his peak Romine belts 25, but otherwise 15-18 will be nice.

  • b/c

    Now we have reports that Montero also has the big arm and is gunning down runners in the Liga Paralella. A really good arm behind the plate is something we have missed in recent years.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      Very true. Plus, I think it’s by far the most fun tool to watch, especially from 3B or RF.

  • Yankee Fan in Chicago

    If Romine is at Charleston, where does that put Montero? Extended spring and then SI?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      Yep, that’s what I’m presuming. Montero’s like, 3 years younger than Romine. He could use the extra instruction. But man, that kid can rake.

      • Tripp

        3 years really? I thought Montero was 18 and if Romine just graduated high school then he can’t be but 19 by now.
        Any chance Montero and Romine split time at Charleston with Montero taking over some 1B and DH duties?

      • jeff

        Romine (11/22/88) is almost exactly a year older than Montero (11/28/89). But I don’t think that changes Mike’s point.

        • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

          Wow, I need to brush up on my prospect age knowledge I see.

  • CB

    The way they’ve approached catcher is a great model for them building all of their position players.

    International signings and the draft have netted 3 very good prospects in two years. On top of that they already have Cerevelli and Pilitiere may even have a future as a backup catcher in th majors. With Posada signed for 4 more years the yanks will have some alternative when he can’t catch day to day anymore. They’re hopefully not going to need to troll the free agent market.

    Romine and Montero both seem to have excellent futures. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if they both excel in the minors.

    Of Cerevelli, Montero, Romine, Weems at least will hopefully pan out. If more than that do they will have a very valuable trade chip (though if montero pans out I’m sure they’ll keep him and even switch his position if needed).

    Nice write up as always mike.

  • Nick

    Apparently Montero has much more 1st base potential than Romine. (In regards to power, at least.)

    Ideally we’ll find a candidate at first base who can hold down the position for three or four more years while Montero grows, but knowing the Yankees we’ll probably sign Texeira to some huge deal.

  • Lanny

    The funnest tool to watch is speed.

    • dan

      I think the whole tool business in general is kinda foolish… unless you’re referring to Carl Pavano. OOOH BURN!!!! In all seriousness though, at this point in his career Barry Bonds is a 1 tool player, but that one tool is pretty damn important. Same with a young guy like Billy Butler (same initials, hhhmm). He is the same kind of one tool player, but is a great prospect.

      • jeff

        For what it’s worth, hitting and hitting for power are considered two separate tools, so Bonds still has two exceptional tools. And they’re the two most important.

        • dan

          I realize that. I just don’t consider Bonds’ .270ish average a tool. And the tool system is better suited for looking at young players anyway.

          • jeff

            Plate discipline is part of the hitting tool, and Bonds is the king there.

            But the overall point of tools only being important when evaluating young players is true.

  • Count Zero

    Sweet profile. I had this vague idea that Romine was a hot prospect but no real clue. Thanks Mike.

    Oh and, nice going Nick — getting us the profile that is. :-)

  • Lanny

    dan,

    By even your standards wouldn’t having multiple tools be better than having one???

    Bonds is 40+ yrs old and has over 700 homers (no roid jokes apply) We stop talking tools once a guy actually breaks into and plays in an all star game.

    • dan

      Yea I know. I was kind of looking for a way around blankly saying “speed is overrated.” Bonds was probably a bad example, but I think Butler’s two tools make a fair point. He’s one hell of a hitting prospect, he just can’t run or field (or throw?).

  • http://yanksfansoxfan.typepad.com/ysfs/ Nick-YF

    Hey, I was on the road and didn’t get to read this until this morning. Thanks a lot, Mike! Great work as usual.

  • Vader

    Great work Mike. For anyone that thinks Cash isn’t doing his job, just look at the lower levels. Building a farm system doesn’t happen overnight, especially when there were several years of neglect. Regarding Posada, IMO we have been spoiled.

  • Mantle

    I see one of those guys going to the Toronto Blue Jays
    with one of our young pitchers. Toronto wants a deal by
    July 28. I see the Yanks pulling the trigger on this one.
    I know, it’s quiet out there; that’s what makes me suspect
    something.

    “It’s quiet.”

    “Yeah, too quiet.”

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