Romero, the Nationals’ first-round pick in the 2017 draft and fifth-rated prospect entering the season according to Baseball America, is expected to miss the entire 2019 season while recovering from surgery.
The procedure was performed Thursday in Los Angeles by orthopedist Neal ElAttrache, according to a Nats spokesman.
It’s a significant blow to a left-hander whose career had already hit several significant bumps in the last year-and-a-half. The Nationals took a chance drafting Romero after he had been kicked off the University of Houston’s baseball team for multiple violations. He proceeded to make seven starts last season (one for the rookie Gulf Coast League Nationals, six for short-season Single-A Auburn) to get his career started, but then came another setback this spring.
The Nationals sent Romero home from spring training in early March for violating club policy. At the time, general manager Mike Rizzo said the lefty “has to show something to me, that he deserves the honor of being back in camp” before he would return.
Romero finally made his 2018 debut June 7 for low-Single-A Hagerstown. He made six starts on regular schedule, then landed on the minor league disabled list in July, then returned to make one more start August 16, lasting only two innings. Two days later, he was placed on the DL again.
The Nationals had high hopes Romero could advance through their farm system quickly, but now he faces a long road back. Assuming he misses the entire 2019 season while rehabbing from the surgery, his next game action will come in April 2020, at which point he’ll be on the verge of turning 24 and having made only 14 professional starts.