Washington Nationals: Enny Romero’s breakout party

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 09: Enny Romero
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 09: Enny Romero /

The hard throwing fireballer had a great 2017 for the Washington Nationals. What is Enny Romero’s ceiling and what can he do as an encore?

As we head toward Spring Training, one of the Washington Nationals secret weapons is Enny Romero.

Gone are the days where his fastball location is a mystery, even to him. In 2017, under the tutelage of Dusty Baker, Romero put together a great year.

The Nats traded for Romero a year ago from the Tampa Bay Rays for minor-leaguer Jeffery Rosa. Safe to say they got the better end of the deal.

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With Tampa, and last spring in the Grapefruit League, Romero’s fastball topped triple digits. The problem came with control as in Romero had none. He could thread a needle on the outside corner one pitch and hit the backstop on the next. Like a good knuckleballer, you never knew what zip code his fastball would cross.

In Washington, that changed. Yes, there still are times when the fastball dances wildly, but Romero worked hard to improve his command and settle within the strike zone. In 2016, he walked 28 over 45.2 innings for an unhealthy 5.5 BB/9. Last year, it dipped to 3.7-per-nine or 23 over 55.2 frames.

As he threw fewer balls, the strikeouts increased. His 10.5 K/9 was a career high. Although his H/9 rate increased to 8.9 from 8.3, a by-product of throwing more strikes, his WHIP dropped from 1.533 to 1.401. His ERA went from 5.91 to 3.56. The ERA+ jumped from 68 to 125.

Yes, Romero found his groove last year. At 27, what is his potential?

If he continues progressing on the same path, his hard stuff can close games. His movement baffles hitters. This year, he must continue to pitch with confidence and learn how to mix his off-speed stuff with those fastballs.

Romero is in good shape some day to become a devastating setup man. His off-speed pitches are 15-20 miles an hour slower that his pure heat. The main task for Romero is dropping the combination of pitches together. In his first National League season, he learned how to get out of jams.

The next step is understanding how to use those tools on the mound. Romero has the talent to transition from a thrower to a pitcher. His speed is his biggest asset. Now he knows where it will go out of his hand, he can reach the next level when hitters chase his junk.

Next: Nats clear NL East favorites

With four years of team control left, it is not a stretch to think Romero can close games before free agency. Yes, he is still a work in progress. But, the skill set is there for him to be an All-Star. A nice problem to have.