JoJo Romero

Phillies have arms (and names) coming

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Phillies have arms (and names) coming

The Phillies have a growing number of pitching prospects and along with good arms they have some colorful first names.

It might not be long before you hear Dan Baker shriek, "And tonight's starting pitcher is JoJo Romero."

Or maybe it will be Ranger Suarez getting the start (and the win) with a save going to Seranthony Dominguez.

And, of course, you've already heard about Sixto Sanchez. Who hasn't? The power-armed, strike-throwing 19-year-old phenom is one of the game's hottest prospects and a target of every general manager who tries to play Let's Make a Deal with Matt Klentak.

The Phillies are hosting their annual prospect education seminar this week at Citizens Bank Park and Romero, Suarez and Dominguez are all in town for the event. All three could be right back in Eastern Pennsylvania in April. They will all report to spring training in February with a chance to win a spot on the Double A Reading roster. Franklyn Kilome, another top pitching prospect in town this week, figures to open the season back in Reading, as well.

The Phillies went through the 2017 season without using a left-handed starting pitcher for the first time since 1918 and don't project to open the new season with one — unless Klentak, who is actively looking to add a pitcher, brings in a lefty before then.

Not too far down the road, if all continues to go well in the development process, the Phillies will have some choices from the left side. Cole Irvin, another prospect in town this week, could be ready for the Triple A rotation in April. The University of Oregon product, who will turn 24 later this month, is a lefty. And behind him is the lefty duo of Romero and Suarez.

Romero, 21, is a native of Oxnard, California. He pitched at the University of Nevada as a freshman and moved on to Yavapai College (Curt Schilling and Ken Giles are products of that program) in Arizona for his sophomore season in 2016. He was drafted by the Phillies in the fourth round that year. In his first full season of pro ball in 2017, Romero posted a 2.16 ERA in 23 starts at Lakewood and Clearwater. He gave up 104 hits, struck out 128 and walked 36 in 129 innings.

"He had a great year developmentally," Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said. "He really figured out what he had and how to use it."

Romero throws a sinker and a four-seam fastball up to 95 mph. He complements that with an off-speed repertoire highlighted by a good changeup. He was born Joseph Romero, but JoJo evolved into his baseball name over the years and he's sticking with it.

"I like it," he said with a smile in the Phillies' clubhouse Wednesday.

Suarez, a 22-year-old from Venezuela, posted numbers similar to Romero's in 2017. He also pitched at Lakewood and Clearwater and registered a 2.27 ERA in 22 starts. He gave up 95 hits and struck out 128 while walking just 35 in 122 2/3 innings.

On Wednesday, Suarez was asked about his goals for 2018.

"Grandes ligas," he said.

He smiled and explained himself to Diego Ettedgui, the Phillies' Spanish language translator.

"The goal of every baseball player is to make it to the big leagues," Suarez said.

The Phillies signed Suarez for $25,000 in 2012. He has two brothers, Rayner and Rosmer, and a sister, Rangerlin.

"We have a family tradition that every name starts with the letter R," he said.

Dominguez, a 23-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, is often asked about his unique first name. He said it was something his parents heard on television.

On the diamond, Dominguez's arm stands out more than his name.

"Ninety-eight, 99," he said when asked how hard he throws.

The Phillies will begin converting him from starter to reliever this spring. He has future closer written all over him.

"He has a chance to really dominate in the late innings," Jordan said.

3 lesser-known Phillies prospects earn monthly honors for June

3 lesser-known Phillies prospects earn monthly honors for June

Three minor-leaguers who Phillies fans might not be as familiar with as their top prospects earned organizational honors for the month of June.

Reading third baseman Mitch Walding was named Phillies Minor League Hitter of the Month, Clearwater left-hander JoJo Romero earned Pitcher of the Month, and Reading outfielder Carlos Tocci was Defender of the Month.

Walding hit .337 in June with four doubles, two triples, 13 homers and 27 RBIs. He had the most home runs in June of any minor-leaguer at any level.

The 24-year-old left-handed hitter was the Phils' fifth-round pick in 2011, the draft which also produced Ken Giles, Roman Quinn, Adam Morgan, Brock Stassi and Cody Asche. (The Phils' first pick that year was Larry Greene.)

Third base is not a position of organizational strength so the Phillies are glad to see Walding taking advantage of his opportunity. He's hitting .247 with a .914 OPS on the season, with 14 of his 20 homers coming at Reading's homer-friendly park.

Romero, 20, was the Phillies' fourth-round pick last summer out of Yavapai College in Arizona, where Giles also went.

Romero, who went 5-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 13 starts at Class A Lakewood, earned a promotion to High A Clearwater at the beginning of July. In four June starts, Romero went 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA, 26 strikeouts and one walk in 26⅓ innings.

Tocci, 21, played all over the outfield for Reading in June and made his only error of the season in 169 chances. 

Phillies agree to terms with draft picks Kevin Gowdy, Cole Stobbe, JoJo Romero, Josh Stephen

Phillies agree to terms with draft picks Kevin Gowdy, Cole Stobbe, JoJo Romero, Josh Stephen

A day after introducing No. 1 pick Mickey Moniak as their newest prospect, the Phillies agreed to contract terms with four other draft selections, featuring second-round pick Kevin Gowdy, a right-handed pitcher out of Santa Barbara High School in California. 

Third-rounder Cole Stobbe (SS), fourth-rounder JoJo Romero (LHP) and 11th-rounder Josh Stephen (OF) also agreed to terms with the Phillies on Wednesday.

Gowdy, 18, was selected 42nd overall by the Phillies as the top pick in the second round. At Santa Barbara, Gowdy went 4-1 with a 1.59 ERA, 93 strikeouts and five walks in 56 2/3 innings.

He was rated as the best high school pitcher in Southern California by Baseball America.

“He’s a young right-handed pitcher who has the ability to command the baseball at such a young age,” Phillies scouting director Johnny Almaraz said back on June 10. “He has an above-average fastball and good breaking stuff. I’m a believer you can’t teach somebody how to pitch. He’s got that innate ability to pitch and get hitters out and that’s what we want in this organization, frontline pitchers.”

Gowdy was at Citizens Bank Park and tweeted his excitement.

Moniak is good friends with both Gowdy and Stobbe.

"Couldn't have scripted it any better," Moniak said Tuesday when speaking about both.

The Phillies have agreed to terms with their first 14 picks and 25 of the overall 40.