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40 in 40: Stefen Romero

This man is an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners organization.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Today’s 40 in 40 focuses on everyone’s favorite 27-year-old outfielder and former Oregon State Beaver: Stefen Romero! Romero has taken plenty of flack from the LL community over the past couple of years (some of you can be mean), but he’s also done some pretty cool baseball things in his life. Today, we’ll use bullet points to highlight a few of the key moments in Romero’s roller coaster-esque baseball career. Here we go!

  • Spring 2007: Despite playing three years of baseball at Sunnyside High School in Tucson, AZ and earning First-Team Division 5A recognition his senior year, Romero did not receive any baseball scholarships for college.
  • Fall 2007: Romero walked on at Pima Community College. He played his freshman season for the Aztecs and was named to the All-Arizona Community College Athletic Conference First-Team as a second baseman.
  • Summer 2008: Oregon State’s coaching staff scouted Romero during a summer league game. Impressed by Stefen’s raw potential and work ethic, Beavers head coach Pat Casey offered him a scholarship. He appeared in 103 games for the Beavers in 2009 and 2010. In his junior season, he finished 8th in the PAC-12 with a 1.030 OPS.
  • June 2010: The Mariners drafted Romero in the 12th round (372nd overall) of MLB’s amateur draft. He received a $100,000 signing bonus.
  • October 3rd, 2012: Romero was named the Mariners minor league Player of the Year after hitting a combined .352/.391/.599 with 23 dingers and 101 RBI with the High Desert Mavericks (60 games) and the Jackson Generals (56 games).
  • Spring 2013 Romero transitioned from an infielder to an outfielder. Up until this point, he’d made 95% of his professional appearances at either 2nd or 3rd base. However, his suspect range in the infield and the club’s dearth of talented outfielders made the transition a logical one. To prepare himself for time at the corner outfield spots, Romero worked with Rainiers manager Daren Brown and Mariners minor league fielding coordinator Jack Howell to improve his footwork, route-running, and positioning.
  • November 20, 2013: Romero was added to Seattle’s 40-man roster.
  • April 1st, 2014: After making the opening day roster, thanks in part to a blistering spring training that saw him hit four home runs in 12 games, Romero made his MLB debut as Seattle’s starting right fielder. He went 0-4 with a strikeout, but the Mariners still managed to beat the Angels thanks to seven innings of 2-run pitching from Erasmo Ramirez and two homers from Brad Miller. (Go Rays!)
  • June 3rd, 2014: Romero hit a pinch-hit three-run home run off of Gavin Floyd to pull the Mariners even with the Braves. The Mariners would go on to win 7-5 and sweep the two-game series in Atlanta.

  • June 29, 2014: The Mariners optioned Romero to Tacoma. After starting well, Romero OPS’d 0.420 from mid-May to the end of June (80 PA), which is a woefully subpar performance for an offensively-oriented player. He had two more short stints with the M’s in 2014 and a September call-up in 2015, but he was used primarily as a pinch hitter or defensive substitute, earning just 55 PA in 34 games.

This brings us more or less up to date. First off, it’s important to note that going from a junior college walk-on to a starting right fielder in MLB in less than six years is pretty amazing. That type of development seems like a testament to Romero’s ability to DO WORK. Unfortunately, he just hasn’t been able to take that final step and find a way to succeed in the majors. Most players see a pretty large performance dip after jumping to the bigs. For Romero, this discrepancy has been especially stark.

2014 & 2015 stats
Triple-A 152 679 5.4% 16.7% 0.308 0.346 0.536 0.882 0.228 0.332 0.381 128
MLB 85 214 3.3% 25.2% 0.192 0.241 0.308 0.549 0.116 0.241 0.246 56

Romero has been a legitimate star in Triple-A. It’s easy to look at his sub-.600 OPS with the M’s and feel something akin to scorn, but it’s important to remember that he is probably better at baseball than you are at anything. He just hasn’t been able to translate his minor league success to the majors. And it doesn’t appear as though he’ll get too many more opportunities—at least not with the Mariners.

There are currently eight players designated as outfielders on Seattle’s 40-man roster: Nori Aoki, Nelson Cruz, Franklin Gutierrez, Leonys Martin, Shawn O’Malley, Boog Powell, Stefen Romero, and Seth Smith. Looking at this list, I think it’s fair to say that Romero is almost certainly eighth on that depth chart. Fortunately, he does still have an option remaining, which means the Mariners can stash him in Tacoma as outfield depth and/or as a potential not-large trade chip who could be flipped as the season progresses. However, unless MANY BAD THINGS happen to Seattle’s outfielders, it’s hard to envision a scenario where he gets much playing time with the big league club in 2016.