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Jamie Romak Still at Lynchburg

Dejan Kovacevic's chat today:

Sack_Lodge: DK, does mgmt. view Jamie Romak as a legit prospect? Nice average and power numbers in "A" ball. Are the 64 k's in 50 games stoppping a promotion to Altoona?

Dejan Kovacevic: The strikeouts are a problem. The lack of walks, too. Lots of home runs means little at that level, unless accompanied by some patience.

I think this is a misdiagnosis. Yes, the strikeouts are an issue. (Romak has 64 in 186 at bats, which is terrible.) But they're only part of the issue. Here's the rest of Romak's line so far:

.301/.387/.597, 16 doubles, 13 homers, 24 walks

Looks great, right? You can hardly fault a guy who's posting a .984 OPS. The problem, though, is that the strikeouts are likely to eat him alive when he moves up unless he makes adjustments.

Remarkably, in Romak's last ten games, he's had 38 at bats, 17 strikeouts... and 13 hits, seven of which went for extra bases. He's made only eight outs that weren't strikeouts. He also drew five walks over that span.

Patience is not Romak's problem. He has well over one walk for every ten at bats this year, which is very good; last year, he drew 55 walks against 294 at bats at Lynchburg. Keep in mind that I've never seen Romak play, but from watching the numbers and scouting reports closely, it appears the real problem might be that he's too patient, waiting endlessly for the perfect pitch, getting deep into counts as a result, and racking up strikeouts and walks. That approach can work at Class A where pitchers don't have any command--they'll walk lots of batters, and they'll throw a fair number of meatballs too. But it probably won't work even one level higher, at AA, where pitchers' command tends to be much better.

Maybe the Pirates have good reasons for keeping Romak at Lynchburg I don't know about, but from my semi-informed reading of the numbers, I wonder if the pitching there is just a crutch that keeps him from learning what he really needs to know. I'd be interested to see what he'd learn if he moved up to Altoona.

By the way, the Pirates should consider him a real prospect. The odds are against him, but his upside could be quite high if he can adapt as he moves up. Ryan Howard was a year older than Romak when he played at Class A+, and he posted slightly worse numbers there than Romak has now. Keeping in mind that Howard was playing in a tougher league for hitters, that may be a wash. But Howard also struck out at a rate similar to Romak's and walked a bit less. Players like Howard who make it are pretty rare, but if you've got one, I wouldn't dismiss him.