When you look at the Twins top prospect list for 2017 you see a lot of familiar names—and a lot of different names. The third ranked prospect, Stephen Gonsalves, is no longer with the organization, as he was put on waivers and claimed by the Mets. The second ranked prospect Nick Gordon has not lived up to expectations as he fell to the 13th ranked prospect. Felix Jorge and Tyler Jay are no longer in the organization. However, If you look at the 4th prospect you see Fernando Romero: the 71th ranked prospect in all of the MLB in 2017, with a fastball that sits in the 95-97 mph range.
Fernando Romero was signed by the Twins in 2011 for $260,000. In his first professional season, he went 1-4 with a 4.65 ERA, not what you want from your recently signed prospect. He bounced back in 2013 with a 1.60 ERA with the Gulf Coast Twins, going 2-0 in 45 innings, and playing like the “ace” he was marketed to be. In 2014, only after three games, he tore his UCL and required Tommy John Surgery.
Romero missed the rest of the 2014 season and most of the 2015 season recovering from Tommy John. Romero was fully recovered to begin the 2016 season as he went 9-3 with a 1.89 ERA in 16 starts and was called up to the Fort Myers Miracle in the middle of the season. The starter was added to the 40-man roster after the 2016 season and was promoted to the Double-AA Chattanooga Lookouts to begin the 2017 season.
In Chattanooga, he went 11-9 with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.352 WHIP in 24 games. Romero began 2018 on the Triple-AAA Rochester Red Wings roster. He posted a 3.57 ERA in Rochester and got called up to make his debut in May 2018. After going 5.2 innings while striking out five and giving up no runs to earn his first major league win. Romero got sent down following a game on July 15th, where he gave up four runs on ten hits in only 4.1 innings.
He would bounce between the Twins and the minors—until he was put in a bullpen role for the foreseeable future. After switching to the pen, he appeared in 15 games in 2019, with a 7.07 ERA and a 2.143 WHIP. After being sent down in June, he spent the rest the year in the minors. With Rochester, he put up a 4.37 ERA and did not earn a call up back to the majors for all of 2019.
To make things worse, Romero was turned away at customs when he arrived in the United States for 2020 spring training. The former prospect will have to apply for a new visa and will miss most or all of spring training. Don’t lose hope, when the Twins play the Tigers in the Dominican Republic on March 7th, the Twins will be able to use Romero as the game is not in his home country. Romero may also get a new visa in time, and be able to play in the latter half of spring training, and compete for a roster spot.
Will we see Romero make an appearance in spring training? Will he make the roster with the new 26th man roster spot? Will the Twins call him up as a reinforcement later in the season? Will he see some time as a starter? The former top 5 Twins prospect has had a troubling start to his major league career. Still, at only 25-years-old still has plenty of age and potential left in the tank: let’s see how he turns out.