Prospect Watch:  Deibinson Romero

Deibinson "DJ" Romero was voted to be the Twins 25th best prospect in 2008, via a community Twinkie Town vote.

When Seth first introduced a community vote on Twins prospects, I was curious to find out where the farm system's third basemen placed out.  Two placed in the top 25, with Danny Valencia placing 13th.  Both Valencia and Deibinson Romero are the most highly-toted hot corner prospects since Matt Moses.  While Moses will only be in his age-23 campaign in 2008, he hasn't boasted the power, defense, or on-base skills required to be a long-term possibility at third base.

When the Twins signed Romero in July 2004 he was a non-drafed free agent.  Now he's considered the second-best third base prospect in the system, and he's 21.  But when he began his career with the Twins in 2005, in the Dominican Summer League, things didn't look too promising.  He struggled across the board at the plate:  power, on base percentage, pitch recognition, strike zone judgment and plate discipline.  It wasn't until he came to the GCL Twins in 2006 that he was able to establish himself as a legitimate hitter.  In 50 games he managed 55 hits, and suddenly he'd gone from an unknown non-prospect to a genuine curiosity as he became a Gulf Coast League All-Star.  In addition to playing good defense he was actually taking pitches at the plate, and he even flaunted enough speed to nab six bases.  By no means is Romero a speedster, but he does have better than average speed for a third baseman.

Last summer, Romero continued to impress at Elizabethton.  Again he picked up more hits than games played, and both his on-base skills and power spiked.  His walk rates increased, he established his reputation as a better than average hot corner defender (rated by Baseball America to have the best infield arm and to be the best infield defender in the Minnesota farm system), and he was even slightly more efficient on the basepaths.

Minor League Lines

Year & Level AB H 2B HR SB BB SO AVG OBP SLG
2006 GCL 176 55 10 4 6 13 37 .313 .365 .460
2007 Elizabethton 247 78 16 9 9 34 47 .316 .406 .506
Minor League Totals 433 136 27 13 15 48 88 .314 .389 .485

There's absolutely nothing shabby about an .874 minor league OPS.  DJ Romero is about to enter his age-21 season, and if he can continue to progress and adapt at each developmental stage, then the Twins will have a brand new, shiny, long-term solution at third base in two or three years.

Right now things are on an uphill trend for Romero, but there are a couple things to watch for this coming year.  Let's take a brief look at some of DJ's extended statistics.

Extended Lines

Year & Level AB ISO BB% K% BABIP GB% LD%
2006 GCL 176 .147 6.7 19.2 .378 43 9
2007 Elizabethton 247 .190 11.9 16.0 .361 49 17

First the positives:  Romero's ISO made a dramatic jump, and both of his walk and strikeout rates moved in positive directions.  Romero also was hitting the ball harder in general, nearly doubling his line-drive percentage.  The things to watch this summer involve these peripherals, as how good they are will go a long way in determining how his traditional line turns out.

Romero's BABIP has been pretty high these past two seasons, but as he graduates to higher echelons of the minor leagues defenses and pitchers will get better.  These numbers are very likely to take a pretty big hit over the next couple seasons, but how big of a hit depends on how well he's able to adapt to better pitching.

This is where a number of prospects fizzle out.  They can handle pitchers with only a couple decent options in their arsenal and some inexperienced fielders, but once they match up against older, better players they hit a brick wall.  Romero's last two seasons with the Twins have been in Rookie leagues, which means 2008 will be a big clue as to how he's able to adapt.  One of the most telling clues will be his line drive percentage:  last summer's massive improvement is great, but he has to prove he can repeat that performance outside of a Rookie league.

Finally, to develop into the prototypical offensive third baseman, Romero will have to continue to develop his power stroke.  He's launched 15 long balls in 433 minor league at-bats (not counting the Dominican Summer League), which isn't too bad for his age or league.  His 27 doubles are equally as impressive.  Increasing his ISO by 43 points last summer isn't necessarily suspect due to remaining in a Rookie league, but it would be handy if he could replicate those numbers after a promotion.  Keeping his ISO near .200 would be a great goal for 2008.

Outlook

A good hitter and a solid defender, DJ Romero has come a long way since coming to the Twins as an undrafted free agent.  His improvements at the plate over the last two seasons have catapulted him onto radar screens across the organization.  Romero will probably play more than 100 games for the first time in his minor league career this summer.  As of today he's an incredibly talented ballplayer, but as evaluation is concerned we'll be able to project him with a bit more confidence when he proves he can produce as he has over the course of a full season.

Romero has plus tools at the plate and in the field.  He's been an All-Star with the Gulf Coast League, the Appalachian League and Topps Short A/Rookie League.  Due to his athletic build and skills some believe he's capable of playing any corner postion, infield or outfield.  All in all, there are a lot of things to be excited about for Deibinson Romero; he just has to continue to grow and develop his game as he's done the last two seasons.

Right now I'd project Romero to breach the majors in 2011, at age 24, if he's able to succeed as he moves up the ladder.  If he's able to master opposing pitchers as easily this summer as he has the last two, we might even see a glimpse of him a year earlier.  But for 2008 the outlook is a bit more focused:  handle better pitching, learn a few new tricks.  It's a big summer for Deibinson Romero.

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