It’s tough to be a starting pitching prospect in the Rays organization. If you’re in the upper minors, you’re competing with tons of quality pitchers to get a big league rotation spot. In the lower minors, it’s a different type of competition: comparisons. Enny Romero will be compared to Matt Moore, in a way pitted against him, his entire time through the minors. Does Romero have the potential to be as good as Moore someday?
Matt Moore is 6’2″ and 215 pounds. Romero is 6’3″, 165 at this point but could look like Moore when he fills out. Moore was a mostly unheralded 8th round pick in 2007. Enny Romero was an unhyped signing out of the Dominican Republic. Both possess power fastballs from the left side that consistently hit the mid-90′s. Moore’s fastball is plus-plus right now, and Romero’s has the potential to be just as good although he struggles at times to control it at this point. Moore tosses a sharp 1-to-7 curveball that is universally regarded as a second plus pitch. Romero’s curveball features straight down 12-to-6 movement at this point, and it has sharp movement when it’s on although he’s still inconsistent with it. Moore’s third pitch is a changeup that took him a while to master but is now a third true plus pitch for him. Romero’s changeup looks dynamic at times, but he has absolutely no control of it at this point and it’s often useless in games. The arsenal’s of the two lefties are definitely comparable, although Romero has a long way to go to reach Moore’s level. Now let’s see what parallels we can make between Moore’s and Romero’s minor league numbers.
Moore made his pro debut as an 18 year old in 2007 as the Rays eased him in at Advanced Rookie-level Princeton, posting a 2.66 ERA in 3 starts and 5 relief appearances spanning 20.1 IP, striking out 12.8 per 9 innings while walking 7.1. In 2008, Moore returned to Princeton and he dominated as the Rays stretched him out, going 2-2 with a 1.66 ERA, 77 strikeouts (12.8 K/9), 19 walks (3.1 BB/9), and not a single home run allowed in 12 starts and 53.2 IP. His FIP was actually two ticks lower than his ERA, coming in at 1.64. 2008 was where Moore burst onto the scene as a prospect.
Romero made his pro debut as a 17 year old in 2008, posting a 2.76 ERA in 10 relief appearances and 16.1, posting an 11.0 K/9 and a 4.4 BB/9. Romero moved over to the Gulf Coast League Rays in 2009 for his first season in the United States, and he struggled, going 2-4 with a 4.81 ERA, just a 7.6 K/9, a 4.8 BB/9, and a 0.5 HR/9 in 4 starts, 7 relief appearances, and 39.1 IP. His 4.01 FIP was OK, but he didn’t really didn’t impress in his second season at Rookie ball. But he went up to Princeton as a 19 year old like Moore and dominated similarly, going 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA, striking out 76, a 9.2 K/9, walking just 19 (2.3 BB/9), and allowing just 2 home runs (0.2 HR/9) in 13 starts at Princeton, 1 at Short Season-A Hudson Valley, and 74.1 IP. Just like Moore, Romero broke out with a huge season at Princeton.
During their time at Rookie Ball, Moore missed quite a few more bats although his control was worse overall while Romero didn’t miss as many bats but did walk less guys.
In 2009, Matt Moore went up to Low-A Bowling Green and turned in another great season. He went 8-5 with a 3.15 ERA, 176 strikeouts (12.9 K/9), 70 walks (a bad 5.1 BB/9), and just 6 home runs allowed (0.4 HR/9) in 26 starts and 123 IP. His FIP was still a nice 2.83. Romero, meanwhile, did not put up nearly as sparkly stats in the same 26 starts, going 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA, 140 strikeouts (11.1 K/9), 68 walks (a 5.4 BB/9 that was worse than Moore), and 9 home runs allowed (0.7 HR/9) in 114 IP. His FIP was better than his ERA, but still nearly a run behind Moore at 3.66. Both pitchers fought through control problems in their first exposures to full-season ball, but Moore managed more strikeouts, a lower walks rate, and less homers allowed. Moore and Romero both had overpowering fastballs when they took on Low-A, but the big difference between them at this point in their development was that Moore had a much more consistent breaking ball, in terms of sharp break if not control, and a passable changeup that he could get over the plate.
In 2010 at High-A Charlotte, Moore posted a 3.36 ERA but a ridiculous 2.38 FIP, striking out 12.8 batters per 9 again while improving his BB/9 to 3.8 and just a 0.4 HR/9 in 26 starts and 144.2 IP. Then in 2011 he was completely unhittable between Double-A, Triple-A, and the major leagues and is now the Rays’ 4th starter. Romero, meanwhile, has a 3.75 ERA in 3 starts for High-A Charlotte, striking out 14 in 12 innings, but he has walked 10 batters and hit two more. For what it’s worth, Moore had a 4.40 ERA, 15 strikeouts, and 9 walks in his first 3 High-A starts spanning 14.1 innings.
Enny Romero is not as good as Matt Moore. Romero’s upside may be a starter like Moore with worse control and a worse changeup, but even that would be enough for him to be a number two or number three starter. But the chances of Romero reaching that level are dwindling. His lack of progress on his curveball, changeup, and control are worrying, and there’s a very good chance he ends up as an Alex Torres-type with a dominating repertoire at his best but the type of stuff that unremittingly drives observers insane. I hope Romero proves me wrong. It was so unlikely for Moore to do what he did, yet it happened. Maybe it will happen with Romero. But comparing Romero to Moore, despite all the parallels, is absolutely ridiculous. Get realistic. He’s just not same caliber of player.