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July 8, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Q&A with Eddie Romero, Jr.

Each year, Red Sox Assistant Director of Latin American Operations/International Scouting Eddie Romero, Jr. takes the time to answer some of our questions about the organization’s Latin American players and operations. Romero, who first joined the Red Sox as a scouting assistant in 2006, oversees all the aspects of the Red Sox Latin American operations in the Dominican Republic. The son of former major league infielder Ed Romero, who played three-plus seasons with the Red Sox during his 12 seasons in the majors, Romero worked as a prosecutor for the state attorney’s office in Jacksonville, Fla. before joining the Red Sox. He was kind enough to answer some of my questions recently via email about players to watch.

Jonathan Singer: We might as well get the one we ask you every year out of the way at the top: Which players on the DSL Sox should we keep an eye on this season?
Eddie Romero: We are very excited about Cleuluis Rondon, Deiner Lopez, and Aneudis Peralta. All three of these guys were signed late last year, so they haven’t been with the organization long, but in a short time they have made a very good impression. Rondon is a very active shortstop with range and arm strength but is still learning to switch-hit as he’s only been hitting left-handed for a few months. Peralta has a very good approach and feel to hit, with projectable power and the ability to play third base. Lopez is also shortstop who we’re moving around the field. He is also a switch-hitter with a lot of potential. Alixon Suarez is another recent sign to keep an eye on, a hard worker with a good future behind the plate. On the pitching side, Francelis Montas is an obvious choice as a power arm whose velocity has crept up into the high 90’s due to a quick arm and a strong and sturdy build. Pedro Reyes, who tried out as an outfielder before (Senior Vice President/Player Personnel and International Scouting) Craig Shipley and (Coordinator of Latin American Scouting/International Crosschecker) Todd Claus asked him to pitch, has really progressed lately and is showing a smooth delivery and a good changeup to go with a low 90s fastball.

JS: Sergio Gomez made the jump directly to the GCL as a 16 year old last year. What about Gomez did the organization see to decide to have a pitcher that young come stateside before pitching in the DSL?
ER: The key for Gomez was his ability to repeat his smooth mechanics consistently. At that age, it’s difficult to find a pitcher who has a clean delivery and arm action, and even more difficult to find one that is able to repeat it. These things allowed Sergio to throw strikes and compete at that level. Sergio did this all while getting adjusted to a totally foreign environment, and we were very happy with how he handled everything.

JS: Another player that made the jump to the GCL at 16 years old last year was Jose Vinicio. Obviously he is very talented in the field but raw at plate. Was the organization happy with his progress in his first season? What was your impression of his development from last season to now, and what can we expect from Vinicio going forward?
ER: A main factor to remember when these young Latin American kids are sent to the United States is that getting acclimated to new surroundings is just as important as what that player is doing fundamentally to improve. You have to feel comfortable in your environment to improve and perform. Imagine growing up in New England and at age 16 being sent to Japan to play baseball. This is the same experience for players such as Vinicio. The fact that he was able to go out and play regularly, improve his skills, and get stronger, all while assimilating to a new language and atmosphere made us very satisfied with his progress. Vinicio has a world of talent and natural instincts for a very demanding position at shortstop, and we expect him to continue to get stronger and make strides offensively.

JS: Another player who debuted in the U.S. last year was Oscar Perez. He didn’t exactly light up the stat sheet, but on the field, how is his development progressing? Given that he’s repeating the GCL, when do you think we can hope to see him begin to advance, and what in particular must he do to earn the opportunity to begin moving up through the system?
ER: Oscar is a very hard worker, and defensively he is playing at a high level. (Catching Coordinator) Chad Epperson has had a big impact on his development. Offensively, he continues to work on a few things, but he’s still only 19 and there is no need to rush him up a level. When we feel he is ready to move up, he will.

JS: Last season, Xander Bogaerts was arguably the breakout player in the system, and he has generated a lot of buzz between last year’s Fall Instructional League and now with his assignment to Greenville. Did he exceed the organization’s expectations, and if so, how? Given that he seemed destined for Lowell, what made the organization decide to promote him to Greenville instead, assuming this is not a short-term assignment?
ER: Well, I don’t think any of us projected Xander to be in Greenville this early, but he has been very receptive to instruction and quick to make adjustments and improve, thus causing his rapid rise to full-season ball. He is very confident in his abilities and has shown consistency in making the routine play at shortstop while demonstrating a good approach along with the ability to hit the ball hard and often. He’s a great kid with a high ceiling.

JS: Two players, second baseman Anuery Tavarez and outfielder Jeremias Pineda, were signed last fall and last spring, respectively, and have bypassed the DSL. They’re both a bit older, but what else about them warranted their jump directly to the GCL?
ER: Both Tavarez and Pineda were guys we thought would be mentally ready to handle Fort Myers. Even though they had never traveled to the United States, they’re both very mature. Tavarez showed an advanced approach and feel to hit, while Pineda showed instincts in center field to go along with his plus speed and arm.

JS: The two biggest bonus babies to debut in the DSL last year, other than Bogaerts, were Raul Alcantara and Mario Alcantara. What is your assessment of their respective first seasons, and what can we expect from them in their U.S. debuts?
ER: Both Mario and Raul made good strides in the Dominican Summer League. It’s very tough for first-year pitchers to be effective starters in the DSL, where they face a lot of players who are 19 and 20 years old, while at the same time adjusting to a five-day pitching routine for the first time. It’s also the first time they’ve competed in games since they played little league. We wanted them to just throw strikes and get innings under their belts, and they were both able to do that. They improved as the year went on, which is key. Now, being in the United States for the first time, we simply want to see them compete well against a better level of players, be consistent in their non-pitching days, and continue to make strength gains.

JS: What effects do you think the Dominican Prospect League has had and will have in terms of developing Dominican players and affecting their signings? Do you expect a lot of top end talent to be attracted to playing baseball in the DPL before signing with major league organizations?
ER: Not only the Dominican Prospect League, but the International Prospect League and the Torneo Supremo, have presented an organized format where scouts can watch prospects in real games. We get a better feel for players’ instincts and game ability, instead of just getting a 60(-yard dash) time and batting practice. You can observe pitchers handling situations, their pitch sequences, etc., instead of just seeing them in a bullpen. It has given teams a convenient forum to scout, much like the Team One Showcase and Perfect Game have done in the United States. A lot of this year’s top-end talent has participated in these leagues, and I’d expect that to continue.

JS: We hear a lot about how the new collective bargaining agreement might affect the Rule 4 Draft, but there’s a chance that the international signing process could be affected in some way. Do you foresee any changes that could come internationally? Do you think any are needed, or would be beneficial?
ER: I can’t say whether there will be any changes in the international signing process. Major League Baseball has already initiated some steps to facilitate the process for clubs and has helped alleviate some of the risk involved, primarily through a new prospect registration program and expanding its investigation department, which will continue to be a big benefit to clubs.

JS: At one point at a charity roundtable discussion, Theo Epstein admitted that developing players from Latin American had been a weakness in the organization, but we’re starting to see more of the club’s Latin American signees percolate to the top of the system, like Yamaico Navarro and Felix Doubront. Have there been any changes to the organization’s approach to developing international players that have had particularly positive effects?
ER: The development cycle for the majority of Latin American players is longer than for your typical high school draftee, and definitely slower than for a college player. Craig Shipley took over several years ago and instituted new criteria for our international scouts, who have produced the players you mentioned, and we’ve made some changes on the player development side of things at our Dominican academy to quicken the players’ progressions as well. Everything done at the academy from a fundamental standpoint, even to the point of in-game terminology, is exactly the same that is taught throughout all other affiliates.