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2021 Player Preview: Jojo Romero

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Jojo Romero was one of the few bright spots of the Phillies bullpen in 2020 – until the end, at least. What can we expect from him in 2021?

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals - Game Two Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

We’ve all seen the clip. We’ve all seen it a hundred times. But what am I supposed to do, not include it? Yeah, right.

It might seem silly to say, but this was a big deal. The Phillies had just lost five out of seven to the Marlins, and all of a sudden their chances at making the postseason had plummeted. For a brief, shining moment, however, Jojo Romero gave the fans something to get excited about. Now just imagine how much more fun he could be if the Phillies were actually winning ball games. Jojo Romero, along with Hector Neris and Archie Bradley, could turn the Phillies bullpen into one of the most fun things about the team – that is, as long as they can keep the ball in the park.

What could go right for Jojo Romero in 2021?

Romero pitched very well until his final few appearances last year, and it seems like he has the inside track for a bullpen spot on Opening Day. In order for 2021 to be a successful season for him, all he really needs to do is pitch well enough to keep his major league job. With his incredible look (he’s no Sal Fasano, but it’s close), his passion for the game, and the way he interacts with fans and teammates on Twitter, Jojo Romero doesn’t need to be a star to be a fan favourite.

Romero’s velocity was up last year in his first season as a reliever. He averaged 95 MPH on his fastball, and he maintained that speed throughout the season. His changeup was his strongest put-away pitch and he employed it very well, although he still used his slider much more often. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs believes that Romero’s changeup is his “best secondary offering” and thinks that he can develop it into a really good pitch. If Jojo Romero can maintain his increased fastball velocity throughout a 162-game season, and if he continues to improve his changeup, he could be a very solid multi-inning reliever in 2021.

What could go wrong for Jojo Romero in 2021?

Jojo Romero is still a work in progress. He’s only 24 years old, he’s still rookie eligible, and he’s still learning to be a reliever. Although he looked very impressive in some of his appearances last year, he got hit around pretty badly in others. According to FanGraphs, he was pretty good in 2020 (3.66 FIP, 3.53 xFIP, 3.45 SIERA); while according to Baseball Prospectus he was about average (4.35 DRA); and according to Baseball Reference and Statcast he was quite bad (-0.3 bWAR, 5.31 xERA). In other words, we still don’t really know what we’re getting with Jojo Romero.

Romero’s slider didn’t look major league-ready last season, and his changeup still needs work according to most prospect write-ups. His fastball is good, but it isn’t strong enough to make up for the lack of a true secondary pitch. If Jojo Romero can’t take a step forward with either his slider or his changeup to start next season, he could quickly find himself optioned to the minor leagues.