Washington Nationals: Five must-watch players in 2018

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 29: Second baseman Trea Turner
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 29: Second baseman Trea Turner /
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This could have been Stephen Strasburg, but listing four of the team’s best players as ‘must-watch’ seems a little boring. So here is Enny Romero as the outside-the-box pick.

The law firm of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Brandon Kintzler deservedly gets most of the attention in the Nationals bullpen. They are the three best pitchers who will be required to get the bulk of the big outs late in games this season.

But, Romero stands out as the one guy who could unlock the bullpen and unleash its full wrath on opposing hitters. Romero did not pitch well this spring, and yes, he may have only made the final roster because he is out of options. In a world where bullpen depth is key, he stands as the most intriguing arm in the back of the bullpen.

Romero threw his fastball, which averages 98 mph, nearly 80 percent of the time in 2017 after throwing it just 60 percent of the time in 2016 with Tampa Bay.

He dropped his cutter rate from 29 percent to 11 percent, and used his curveball less than seven percent of the time too. Romero basically became a one-trick pony, but it worked, as his K-rate jumped, his walk rate fell, and he stabilized his numbers with a 3.56 ERA across 55.2 innings. Opponents struck out 52 times and hit .254 against his heater.

Doolittle, Madson, and Kintzler are all very reliable, steady presences at the back of a bullpen, but they don’t have that extra “oomph” that necessarily makes hitters uncomfortable in the box. When Romero enters the game, he can wipe out anyone with a triple-digit fastball.

Romero could learn a thing or two about reliability from the three main relievers, but he does add a dash of unpredictability that, when harnessed properly, can move the team forward.

Keep an eye on Romero, because if he doesn’t strike out the hitter with his fastball, the home run will at least go a long, long way.