Saturday, August 9, 2008

Lefty Matters

One of our side projects here--dating all the way back to spring training, before he started chucking beebees in AAA--was to sing the praises of, boost, encourage, etc. lefty starter David Purcey. Might we have a new beau? (More later).

Purcey got hung with the loss last night (despite posting his second quality start in his last 3 outings), but has been making visible progress at the big league level. Shutting down a raking lineup like the Rangers through 3 a week ago and the Tribe again last night is an accomplishment of sorts. Purcey's got the stuff to win at this level, and now some of the official responsibility for teaching him how to deal with big leaguers the second time through the lineup falls to BA Barajas and Brad Arnsberg (and unofficially, elder statesman Roy Halladay).

I make no bones about the fact that I've always prefered Purcey to Jesse Litsch, though I take no joy in the relative success of the former and minor setbacks of the latter. However it breaks next year, it is reassuring to know that there will be a real competition between relatively young, controllable and hopefully ERA+ neutral starters for the back 2 spots in the rotation in spring training.

[Other names to watch: Brian Wolfe, Davis Romero (quietly putting up a fantastic season for the Chiefs after missing all of 2007 to a torn labrum) and potentially Casey Janssen (see: Romero, Davis).]

Enter Ricky Romero, a bust at 23, the guy the Jays took over Troy Tulowitzki (he of the 76 OPS+ away from Coors Field), and the second blackest mark on JP's draft record after Russ Adams.

Expectations were naturally high for Romero, the 6th overall pick in the 2005 draft out of Cal State Fullerton who netted a record $2.4 million signing bonus (compared to $1.7 million for Snider in 2006, $1.44 million for Kevin Ahrens in 2007, both top Jays picks in successive years). He was very much part of JP's draft strategy of targeting college pitchers who could be expected to hit the bigs faster than their high school counterparts with higher ceilings. That strategy has more than a few detractors around these parts despite the success of Casey Janssen and Shaun Marcum.

Romero did not fare particularly well at New Hampshire this year, posting a 4.96 ERA, a 1.59 WHIP with 55 BB and 78 Ks in 121.2 IP in his third crack at AA. He had ratcheted it up of late, but probably got a promotion to AAA mostly because someone had to fill the spots vacated by Dave Purcey and Scott Richmond and 21-year-old wunderkind Brett Cecil had already been bumped up. We need a guy, you're a guy who's supposed to have potential, let's dance.

Romero has risen to the challenge (in defiance of everyone who called him a bust?), putting up 3 good starts so far for the Chiefs, including an excellent one last night. Quick recap: 7 IP, 2 ER, 5 hits, 3 BB and 10 Ks in a winning effort.

Given all of the shuffling around him, it seems a given that Romero will start out next year in AAA at age 24, just like college righties Marcum and Janssen before him. He needs to lower his walk rate, but something might have clicked with the young lefty. Is it conceivable that he makes his big league debut next year? Certainly. Will he excel? I wouldn't take that bet. Are we pulling for him? Hells yeah.

And some people are still calling Wilner to ask how Gustavo Chacin is doing...

-- Johnny Was

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