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Monday, May 14, 2012

Romero back in front of scouts

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Avery Romero kind of feels like he had already touched all the bases by the time he moved as a seventh-grader with his family to St. Augustine, Fla.

Romero, a 6-foot, 200-pound shortstop and now catching prospect who this month will graduate from Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine, was born in California. His family then moved to Louisiana before moving again to Texas. The final stop was Florida.

“I’ve lived in all the best baseball states,” Romero said Monday while a wide smile.

He was in Iowa at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Monday to attend the 16th annual Perfect Game Pre-Draft Showcase; one of PG’s longest running events. Hundreds of PG Pre-Draft alumni have been drafted through the years, including 17 who attended last year’s event.

Knowing that the showcase would be heavily scouted, Romero jumped on a plane by himself and arrived here Sunday night. On a sun-splashed Monday morning, he couldn’t wait to get started.

“I’m always excited to come out and play, but I’m mostly here today to get some at-bats,” Romero said. “I haven’t been able to take good swings off of good pitchers in a while, so I’m looking forward to it. I like repetition and I like doing things a lot to stay in shape. If anybody calls, I’m ready to play any time.”

And he came to the event with some pretty high expectations of himself.

“I need to stay with my approach when I’m hitting and have good at-bats,” Romero said. “Sometimes you can’t really control where the ball’s going but as long as you have good at-bats and work up the middle, you can see what you can do.

“It’s always a challenge (playing in front of the scouts) but as long as you stay within yourself and as long as you’re having fun – you just have to keep smiling.”

Romero, who has signed with the University of Florida, has made a career out of having quality at-bats. Perfect Game National Director of Scouting David Rawnsley made the following observation in Romero’s “Draft Focus” report published on this site on April 11:

“Romero has two major things going for him. … He is one of the best hitters in the 2012 class and has proven that many times over a multi-year period against the top pitching in the country. He has excellent bat speed from the right side, with the shortness to his swing to square up high velocity pitching and the strength to drive and lift the ball. Romero is aggressive almost to a fault in his swing approach and hits with a confidence that you see in hitters who end up being successful at the big league level.”

“My strong point is definitely hitting; I love hitting and that’s always been my favorite thing,” Romero said. “But I’ve been working on my defense a lot lately, trying to work on the quick-twitch stuff, quick feet and trying to make my game complete.”

Romero has always been a primary shortstop and that’s the position he played in Monday’s extended game. But there has been a recent effort to encourage Romero to try his hand at catching, and he participated in the Pop time catcher’s workout Monday morning.

“Obviously, they say it’s the quickest way to the majors,” Romero said of his flirtation with catching. “I like playing in the field but sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Rawnsley also addressed Romero’s possible move to catcher, writing that “his physical tools and make up/personality profile absolutely perfectly to playing catcher. He’s an aggressive, intelligent (6-foot), 200-pound athlete with lower body strength, one-spot quickness, 90 mph arm strength, soft hands and a potent bat.”

Perfect Game scouting coordinators have been afforded ample opportunities to watch Romero perform since he attended his first PG event in 2008, just a couple of months after his 15th birthday. This is his 24th PG event in four years – he attended nine in 2011 alone – and his third showcase, coming on the heels of the 2011 Perfect Game World Showcase and 2011 PG National Showcase, both held in Fort Myers, Fla. Romero also performed at the 2011 East Coast Professional Showcase and the 2011 Area Code Games.

He has played in three PG WWBA World Championships in Jupiter, Fla., with Chet Lemon’s Juice (2009), the Florida Bombers (2010) and Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Mizuno. 2011 Perfect Game All-Americans Jesse Winker, Albert Almora, David Dahl and Alex Bregman were among Romero’s CST/FTB teammates last year, and he counts his experiences in Jupiter as among his best in baseball.

“That is definitely my favorite tournament,” Romero said Monday. “Jupiter is always fun and you have a lot of (scouts and college coaches) watching, and they’re always high-intensity games. You’re around guys that have the same goals and the same expectations that you have and it’s always fun to bond with those guys because you know that more than likely you’re going to be playing with them for a long time.”

Romero’s decision to sign with head coach Kevin O’Sullivan at UF was pretty much a no-brainer. After he made his initial visit to the Gainesville campus, Romero said he knew right away that it was “perfect fit” and the Gators’ success under O’Sullivan over the past several years was the deal-clincher.

Of course, it’s quite possible Romero will never step foot into a UF classroom, at least not in the fall of 2012; there is speculation he could be a first round pick in June’s MLB amateur draft. PG ranks him as the No. 55 overall (college, junior college, high school) prospect in this year’s draft.

On Monday, he was content being at Perfect Game Field, performing in front of more than 50 scouts at what is likely to be his final Perfect Game event. It’s been a fun ride for the personable Romero.

“I feel like my game has really progressed, especially the last two years,” he said. “When you’re out here so much, you kind of get a group of guys that you’ve been playing with for awhile now, so it’s always nice to show up and see the guys that you haven’t seen in awhile.”

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