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