With Ricky Romero recently signing a new 5-year, $30.1 million contract extension, there have been comparisons drawn to Jon Lester ($30 million) and Yovani Gallardo ($30.1 million), both of whom have signed similar contracts in recent years.  Those two have developed into the elite class of starting pitchers in Major League Baseball, so should we expect Romero to follow?

With Romero and Lester both being lefties and pitching in the highly competitive AL East, let’s take a look at how they both fared and if we can expect Romero to make a similar impact.

I’m going to compare Lester’s first three seasons (remember, he missed time during that span with non-Hodgkin lymphoma), which covers 60 starts to Romero’s first two seasons (53 starts):

Major Leagues:
Lester – 354.2 IP, 3.81 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, .305 BABIP
Romero – 338.0 IP, 3.89 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, .313 BABIP

Those numbers are extremely similar.  When we dig a bit deeper, the groundball rate may actually point things into Romero’s favor:

  • Romero has posted GB% of 54.0% & 54.2%
  • Lester posted marks of 40.6%, 34.4% & 47.5%

Those numbers are a little skewed, however.  It’s possible the time missed played a huge role in the matter, but Lester’s velocity hovered around 90.0 mph in ‘06 and ‘07.  The past two seasons, he’s averaged over 93 mph on his fastball.

Looking at the minor league numbers, you get a little bit of a different picture:

Lester – 377.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, .306 BABIP
Romero – 430.0 IP, 4.42 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, .321 BABIP

Yes, some of Romero’s problems were due to some poor luck, but his strikeout potential is clearly below that of Lester’s.  Don’t get me wrong, everything that Romero has done this season is extremely realistic, and I would expect him to continue his strong showing.

He has made vast improvements in his control, with a BB/9 of 3.3 this season.  If he can maintain that while consistently generating groundballs as he is (and always has, with a minor league groundball rate of 48.6%), then he generates more then enough Ks to be a strong option and a solid Major League pitcher.

However, I don’t see him generating enough strikeouts to forge his way into the class of a Lester—or Gallardo, for that matter.  While his numbers are similar to Lester’s over his first two seasons, there is something tangible to point to in order to explain Lester’s regression in strikeouts.  Romero has simply never shown the upside in the strikeout department, though he has averaged close to 91 mph on his fastball this season.  Maybe he’ll continue to develop in time, but there’s little chance of him becoming a strikeout per inning pitcher.

This year could be Romero’s upside.  How many more groundballs can he generate?  Can his control improve any more?  He’d need to improve there if he can’t become a more prevalent strikeout pitcher.  He’s a good option, just consider him a second tier pitcher, at best.

What are your thoughts on Romero?  Can he develop into a pitcher in the class of Lester?  Why or why not?

Make sure to check out yesterday’s Fantasy Baseball Player Prophet:


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