Roughrider lefty Romero awaits MLB draft selection
OXNARD, Calif. — The last five weeks of baseball activity for Yavapai College left-handed pitcher Joseph Romero has been whirlwind to say the least.
He pitched in key postseason games during the Roughriders’ title run, capping his sophomore season with a complete game effort in the NJCAA national championship June 4, striking out 15 San Jacinto-North batters in a 5-2 victory.
It was the first national title for Yavapai since 1993, and its fourth in program history.
For his efforts, Romero earned an All-Tournament selection at the Junior College World Series with a 3-0 record in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Now back home in Oxnard, California, Romero fields texts and phone calls from Major League Baseball clubs almost on a daily basis.
Fifteen of the league’s 30 franchises have already sat with Romero and his family to gauge his “signability.”
The 2014 Oxnard High School graduate is currently ranked No. 124 in MLB.com’s Top 200 Prospects list, a list he’s certainly climbed over the past nine months.
“Going into the title game, I didn’t think too much about it. Then they asked me, ‘Did this improve your draft stock?’ I said, ‘I would think so, I had a really good outing,’” Romero said with a laugh.
And with the 2016 MLB Amateur Player Draft slated to begin Thursday, Romero hopes his 11-5 record with a 3.64 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 113-1/3 innings pitched for Yavapai this season is enough.
Despite the stats, his low-90s fastball from the left side and devastating changeup that Yavapai skipper Ryan Cougill described as “pro ready” will be what clubs drool over the most, even though he stands only 5-foot-11 and weighs in at 190 pounds.
“My advisor told me first round is unlikely, just because of size wise,” Romero said with a smile.
Projected to be a top five round selectee, or even as high as the top three rounds, Romero could become one of many former Roughriders to be drafted.
Just last year, former Roughrider Willie Calhoun was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth round, and given a hefty $347,500 signing bonus.
Other famous alums include current big leaguers Cole Calhoun [Anaheim Angels], Kirby Yates [New York Yankees] and Ken Giles [Houston Astros]. The most notable player to come out of Roughrider Park in Prescott is more than likely Curt Schilling, a former World Series champion with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Romero said he first discovered that playing professional baseball may be an option after a few scouts approached him at a tournament in Tucson during Yavapai’s fall baseball program.
“I got three questionnaires, and a few teams talked to me. That was the first time they talked to me,” Romero said. “My advisor told me there was buzz with the scouts. From that point forward, at least three, four times a week teams were calling or texting me, asking me questions about when I’ll pitch.”
Before major league teams began showing interest, Romero fully intended on making the transfer to the University of Arizona to play baseball for the Wildcats.
Arizona head coach Jay Johnson originally recruited Romero to play for him at the University of Nevada, where he posted a 72-42 record in two seasons before leaving the Wolfpack for Tucson.
Romero pitched for Nevada during his freshman campaign, but once Johnson took the job at Arizona in June, 2015, he opted to transfer to Yavapai.
“There was a comfort at Yavapai for me. I had family there. It was a good fit, especially with coaching staff,” Romero said. “And the winning nature of the baseball program.”
Now with a serious chance to play professional baseball, Romero said it’s mostly “wait and see” from this point on.
If he doesn’t like his draft spot, he can opt to take his scholarship from Arizona and play baseball for the Wildcats. If his draft selection is to his liking, it will be minor league baseball for him this summer.
Romero was first contacted by the Dodgers out of high school, and they are one of several teams still interested in him, he said.
“I wasn’t expecting much pro wise. But having them talk with me this year, knowing how well I’ve been doing, it made everything seem unbelievable,” said Romero, who will be waiting for that phone to ring when the first and second round selections are made today, and Friday, when rounds three through 10 take place.
“We’re going to hang out and watch it on TV. My advisor told me Friday I should be one of the early calls,” Romero said. “We’ll have barbeque, have family over and all that.”
Romero also knows that if he isn’t selected, it’s certainly OK. He has the “luxury” of Arizona as a backup plan.
“I know nothing is certain. If you watch the football draft, some guys that are supposed to go high first round end up dropping,” Romero said. “It’s an opportunity for me. I look forward to no matter what.”
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is a sports writer and columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @SportsWriter52 or reach him by phone at 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.
MLB Draft: Possible Roughrider Selections
Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Year Commitment
Nate Easley OF 5-10 170 Sophomore Washington State University
Brock Ephan 1B 6-4 270 Sophomore Lewis & Clark State
Ramsey Romano SS 6-2 205 Sophomore Long Beach State
Chase Beal P 6-5 225 Sophomore University of Louisiana-Monroe
Gavin Johns C 6-2 195 Freshman UCLA
NOTE: The first and second round of the 2016 MLB Amateur Player Draft can be seen on MLB Network at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 9.