Seth Romero has had a bumpy start to his Minor League career. Now, he might not even be back on a mound in the Minors until 2020.
The Nationals' No. 7 prospect underwent Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last week, the Nationals announced Monday. He is likely to miss the entire 2019 season as a result. Todd Dybas of The Sports Capitol first reported that Romero had the procedure.
The Nats took Romero with the 25th overall pick in the 2017 Draft because of the plus fastball and slider and above-average changeup he showed at the University of Houston. But the 22-year-old southpaw didn't show much of that stuff as a junior after being suspended and later kicked off the Cougars team for violating athletic department policy. He made seven starts between the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues in 2017 after signing for $2.8 million and posted a 4.91 ERA with 35 strikeouts and eight walks in 22 frames.
Off-the-field issues popped up again before the Texas native began his first full season. He was sent home from Spring Training in March for repeated violations of team curfew policy, and the Nats didn't send him to a full-season affiliate (Class A Hagerstown) until June 6. He made six starts with the Suns before being placed on the disabled list for five weeks between early July and mid-August. Romero returned on Aug. 16 but lasted only two innings, and on Aug. 18, he was back on the DL. The Tommy John surgery came the following week.
Romero finished with a 3.91 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 34 strikeouts and eight walks over 25 1/3 innings in the South Atlantic League.
Each of the Nationals' top four pitching prospects have experienced pitching-related injuries. Erick Fedde (2014) and Wil Crowe (2015) have each undergone Tommy John surgery in the past while the former has missed time this season with right shoulder inflammation. Mason Denaburg, the club's top pick in this year's Draft, was held back by a biceps issue in the spring and has yet to pitch in a Minor League game.