Mariners Analysis: Stefen Romero & his Fast Start to Spring Training


Stefen Romero is making some serious noise with the Seattle Mariners in the desert.

Stefen Romero was once considered the Seattle Mariners right fielder of the future, but he has been a bit of the forgotten man this winter. However, as the great Nuke LaLoosh would say, Romero has announced his “presence with authority” this spring in Peoria, AZ.

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The 27-year-old is off to a phenomenal start in Cactus League play, going 5 for 9 and posting a .600 on base percentage through his first five games. Romero has homered once and driven in a pair of runs this spring. Perhaps most impressive of all has been his work with the leather. Romero made a great diving catch in right field last week, and his transition to first base has been a smooth one thus far.

Romero spent the vast majority of last season in Tacoma with the Rainiers, and he dominated the Pacific Coast League. Romero hit .292 with 37 doubles, 17 home runs, 79 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 116 games played. He registered a .333 on base percentage and slugged .494 across 516 plate appearances. Romero also posted a .304 batting average against left-handed pitching in 2015.

The Oregon State alum earned a September call up to Seattle, and appeared in 13 games for the Mariners last season. Romero posted a .190/.292/.381 slash line with 1 home run and 3 RBI across 24 plate appearances. His numbers were disappointing, but he showed much more patience at the dish. Romero nursed just 4 free passes in all of 2014, but he worked 3 walks last season in very limited action.

Jun 21, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Seattle Mariners right fielder Stefen Romero (7) at bat against the Kansas City Royals during the seventh inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 21, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Seattle Mariners right fielder Stefen Romero (7) at bat against the Kansas City Royals during the seventh inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /

Originally selected in the 10th round of the 2010 draft by the Mariners, Romero reached the big leagues in 2014. He looked overmatched in Seattle, hitting .192 with 3 home runs and 11 RBI across 72 games as a rookie. Romero’s .234 on base percentage and .299 slugging percentage were underwhelming to say the least.

Romero is decent outfielder, but nothing more. During his first two seasons in Seattle, he has registered a .988 fielding percentage. Romero’s arm is below average, but he has demonstrated the ability to defend all three positions. However, his best chance of heading north to Seattle at the end of March is not as an outfielder, it is at first base.

Despite never really playing the position, I’m reasonably comfortable with Romero at first base. He has only played 31.2 career innings at first base, and all of those came in the minor leagues. However, Romero spent his first two professional seasons as a full-time second baseman. He has nearly 1,400 innings under his belt at second base, and he has played well in limited opportunities at third base. Romero has also looked comfortable manning first base through the first week of spring training.

Scott Servais has suggested this spring that the ability to defend may be the determining factor in who wins the right to platoon with Adam Lind at first base. I believe Romero has the potential to develop into the best defensive first baseman in the Mariners’ organization. That is a grand statement, but it actually says more about his competitors’ deficiencies than it does Romero’s abilities. Jesus Montero, Gaby Sanchez and Dae-ho Lee are all considered subpar on defense, and none possess the athleticism Romero brings to the table.

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Perhaps his biggest roadblock to a roster spot has been his poor track record against left-handed pitching in the big leagues. Romero has posted a .206/.245/.313 career slash line versus southpaws in the big leagues. That is not going to cut it if he hopes to platoon with Lind at first base. Montero, Sanchez and Lee have all fared better against left-handers throughout their careers.

The Tucson, AZ native entered spring truing with long odds of starting the season in Seattle, and he remains a long shot to crack the opening day roster. However, adding another position does make Romero more valuable, and that could facilitate a mid-season promotion to Seattle.

Next: Mariners Roundtable: Grading the M's Offseason

I have always been a fan of Stefen Romero. He played just down the road in Corvallis, OR and he plays the game with enthusiasm. Combine his personality traits with his skill set, and you have a potential fan favorite in the Emerald City. Jerry Dipoto and his staff were quick to jettison players they did not believe fit in the plan, and there is a reason why they held onto Romero. He still has to prove it when the games count, but Romero could be fun to watch for Mariners fans in 2016.