Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 25

In 2011 Cincinnati got an early-round talent level with a late-round selection when they signed Sal Romano after he'd made plans to pitch collegiately at Tennessee. He waited until the next season to debut professionally, but the Reds aren't bashful about running him out to the mound against older prospects and he'll probably continue doing that in AA this year.

Sal Romano was on a bit of a fast track when he debuted at Billings in 2012 and got roughed up for an ERA over five. Last season Cincinnati kept him on that track and his ernie was slightly below five while playing a full season as teenager at Dayton. Even though he was selected for the Midwest League All Star game, his stat line wasn't anything to write home about, but then again he was younger than over 90% of the hitters that stepped in the box against him.

Though he may have faced his challenges, this twenty year-old right-hander is still one of the top pitching prospects in the Cincinnati system. The Reds acquired him with a 23rd round selection in 2011 after he'd been named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Connecticut and finished his high school season with an 0.35 ERA (yes, ZERO three five). His round was not representative of his prospect status, but he'd already enrolled in classes at the University of Tennessee and there were serious questions regarding his sign-ability.

The Reds addressed that by going over slot with a $450,000 bonus and got early round talent in a late round pick. He debuted in 2012 in the Pioneer League where high altitude venues create a lot of 5+ ERA's. Last year he manned a spot in the Dragon rotation and made twenty-five starts. The season began like it would have a different end for Romano when his ERA was around a mid-one after five April appearances, but eventually the single A hitters started catching up with him.

One area in need of improvement is a common one for young pitching prospects, command. His K rate declined a bit compared to his first season and his walk rate increased to produce a K/BB ratio of only 1.56. Right now the Reds are paying more attention to his mid-90's fastball than his minor league stats and his frame (6'5"/250#) suggests that he could become a real workhorse someday. He also mixes in a curveball and changeup.

When reviewing pitching talent in Cincinnati's 2011 draft class it's easy to remember top pick Robert Stephenson. Romano is another one in that group that might be found at the top of an MLB team's rotation in the future. For now he'll probably index up the pipeline to Pensacola this season to continue polishing his skills. He'll likely again find it challenging facing older, more developed hitters in AA, but he's got the stuff to make a serious jump up this list next year.

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