Jays take Romero as their No. 1 pick
Toronto continues trend of selecting college pitchers in draft
CHICAGO -- The Blue Jays added to their greatest organizational strength on Tuesday, when they chose left-handed pitcher Ricky Romero with their first pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
"First of all, I'm thrilled to be part of the Toronto Blue Jays organization. I'd like to thank everyone in the organization for believing in me," said Romero, who learned of his selection by tuning into MLB.com. "It's been a great day for me. My parents are really happy, and it's a real dream come true for all of us."
The junior lost his most recent start but still posted a 12-5 record with a 2.95 ERA for Cal State Fullerton, which remains alive in the hunt for the College World Series title. In 125 innings of work, he struck out 132 batters and only walked 32. Opposing hitters managed just 99 hits off him -- and less than a third (30) of those hits went for extra bases.
"He's a winner. He pitched the national championship game last year in the College World Series and won it," said Jon Lalonde, Toronto's director of scouting. "In addition to all his physical abilities, what we liked was his competitive makeup."
"I feel I'm a leader out there, and I just lead by example. Other guys follow what I do," said Romero, whose next rotation turn is on Friday. "I love competing and getting the ball in big games. ... I have a lot of confidence that I can get the job done."
Romero, selected sixth overall, was Toronto's highest pick since 1997, when Vernon Wells was taken with the fifth pick in the draft. The Jays hope Romero works into more pieces of their recent history: Thirteen of their last 15 top picks have made the Major Leagues, and five of their own first-rounders are on their current roster.
"I had been talking to them for the last couple weeks," said Romero. "Yesterday, I talked to my advisor and he said the Blue Jays are really interested. From there, I had a real good feeling they were going to take me."
This time, though, there was almost a last-minute change. The Jays were also high on Troy Tulowitzki, a shortstop that eventually got picked one spot behind them by the Rockies. Since Toronto spent two of its recent top selections on shortstops -- Russ Adams and Aaron Hill -- the Jays decided to further round out their arsenal of young arms.
"We had two guys targeted -- Romero and Tulowitzki. It worked out perfect for us," said J.P. Ricciardi, Toronto's general manager. "With Adams and Hill already here, we want to lean more toward pitching."
"You want to be prepared and examine all the different scenarios that may occur," said Lalonde, explaining why the Jays stuck with Romero. "It was just a matter of seeing if he'd get to us, and that's kind of how we approached it."
Lalonde credited area scout Demerius Pittman with doing most of the leg work on Romero. The team's intelligence reports say that the left-hander has three-plus pitches and a slider that could eventually turn into an out pitch. He works with his fastball between 90-94 mph, and Lalonde said he keeps people off balance with a plus changeup and plus curveball.
Position: LHP B/T: R/L
H: 6'1" W: 195
Born: 1984-11-06 Class: 4YR
Fluid, easy delivery. Has two kinds of FB: a slider-like cutter and a nasty sinker that drops late. Can change speeds on 12-6 CB. Features a sharp slider. Very intense on the mound, keeps hitters off-balance. Potential front-end starter.
"He's still playing. We'll address that whenever he's done," said Lalonde. "We've done our homework and we feel we'll be able to reach an agreement once he's done playing."
"I want to get a deal done as soon as possible," Romero said on his own accord. "I just want to be out there, facing hitters and competing. I want to go out there and be in the big leagues as soon as possible."
Even with the selections of Adams and Hill, Toronto has focused on college pitchers the last few years. As a result, the upper levels of the farm system are already stocked with arms.
Last year, the Jays picked southpaws David Purcey and Zach Jackson with their first two picks. Jackson is already at Double-A New Hampshire, and Purcey is expected to join him sometime soon. After selecting a third lefty with an impressive pedigree, Ricciardi said he's happy adding depth in a rare commodity.
"Just look around -- there's not that many out there," said Ricciardi, talking about the shortage of effective southpaws in the Major Leagues. "We think we got three quality ones. Hopefully, they'll be in our rotation at some point."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.