Futures Game: Examining Performances by Enny Romero and C.J. Riefenhauser

Enny Romero - USA TODAY Sports

Warning, off-center camera angles ahead...

We got our second look at Enny Romero in the Futures Game, and he worked quickly against five batters, allowing one run and two hits, but generating plenty of whiffs along the way. We'll have to make due with Citi Field's off-center camera (because Mets), but there's still plenty to see.

My favorite aspect to Romero's game is his unpredictability. He sports a sinking fastball that can range from 92-97 MPH, and a curveball that often gets labeled as a slider when it jumps from 80-85 MPH.

Romero entered the season with plenty of hype for a buried prospect, and the aim of this season's work was to see him smooth out his delivery (while maintaining control), and to develop a change up.

The 22-year old Dominican was tapped to pitch the second inning for Team World, and his first batter was C.J. Cron, the 17th overall selection of the 2011 draft, playing for the Angels Double-A affiliate in Arkansas.

He earned three swinging strikes, getting him to chase at 93, 94, and then 95 MPH.

Cj_cron_7-14_strikeout_medium

Romero then faced Matt Davidson, and went low and away on a change. It missed. For more control he turned to a 94 MPH fastball, but Davidson was able to foul, so Enny turned it up a notch with two 97 MPH fastballs, generating an easy fly for the second out.

Enny broke out the curve for Joc Pederson, earning a slow swing on the former, and a called strike on the latter. His 81 MPH curve that broke 11-5, dropping eleven inches and pushing across the plate four inches and landing smack-dab in the middle of the zone, making Pederson look a little silly.

Joc_pederson_single_7-14_part_1_medium

His fastball would then got away from him for two balls outside, each at 97, and Romero brought the heat in closer. Seeing the same pitch a third time (but a little higher), Pederson reached and slapped a single through the gap. You can watch that sequence below:

Joc_pederson_single_7-14_part_2_medium

Christian Yelich would double home the runner by catching up with a 1-1 fastball middle and low in the zone. He had taken 94 outside for a strike, and nearly offered at a curveball low and away, before Romero left the heater over the plate. Any lower and Yelich might have just chased, but this one bounced on the warning track in deep center.

For the final out, Romero got Oakland's 2012 11th overall selection Addison Russell looking and then swinging with two fastballs -- looking down the middle, swinging low and just out of the zone. After pushing Addison back with another fastball well inside, Romero put an 81 MPH curve outside just outside for another whiff and his second swinging strikeout.

Addison_russell_7-14_strikeout_medium

His only change up was sent to his second batter faced, below the zone for a ball, so the pitch in development was not on display, but I like what I saw from Romero's fastball. The change had twice as much break as the fastball, and might have stayed in the zone with a bit more speed, but then it's not a change up... hrm.

In his brief appearance, Romero showed his fly ball tenancies in Citi Field, but also showcased an ability to mix pitches and throw anywhere around the zone. His delivery seemed consistent, though the follow through varied. The camera did not stay on him long when he stepped off the mound and I'm no expert, so I'm interested to hear your opinions.

***

C.J. Riefenhauser had a different sort of inning. His stock has risen rapidly in the Rays organization as a relief pitcher, including a promotion to Triple-A Durham last month. He put that skill on display in the futures game with only six pitches for a full frame's work.

Not a single ball was called, and Riefenhauser generated one whiff. He featured a 90-92 MPH fastball and one iteration of a curve for a pop out to center. Here are those pitches in order, with their result:

1. 92 MPH fastball, middle inside, infield flyball to shallow right, 1 out
2. 90 MPH fastball, middle high, called strike
3. 77 MPH curveball, low inside, flyball to center, 2 out
4. 91 MPH fastball, middle inside, called strike
5. 92 MPH fastball, middle inside, swinging strike
6. 92 MPH fastball, middle inside, line-out to second, 3 out

Riefenhauser owns a 0.75 ERA this season over 60.0 innings between Double- and Triple-A, with 56 strikeouts and 14 walks. He's crawled his way up the organizational ladder after being drafted in the 20th round in 2010, and I have to say I'm a bit disappointed he only lasted six pitches. I wanted to see more against the best in baseball.

Riefenhauser_7-14_medium

I suppose the most notable outcome of Riefenhauser's inning was that he faced three right handed batters and sat them down quickly to protect Team USA's 3-2 lead.

"I was just trying to throw strikes and hope I didn't leave one right over the middle so they didn't hit me too hard," the 23-year old said after the game. Mission accomplished. As many have noted, Riefenhauser grew up 58-miles from Citi Field and had almost 100 in attendance for his big day.

For those wondering if he's just a 2-pitch pony, Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics reported that Riefenhauser is working on the organization's staple change up to take on right handed hitters in the long term. "But what this kid brings," Lukevics said, "[is] some inside toughness. He loves to compete."

As I've read the day-after reports, it does seem Rief's strongest attributes are competitiveness and determination. It will be interesting to see how, and how soon, his pitching can translate to the major league level.

"He's a great story because he's another young guy that will will himself to the big leagues," Lukevics concluded, emphasis mine. You can read Marc Topkin's full story on Riefenhauser here, and mlb.com's write up on Rief's performance as well.

All quotes via Marc Topkin.

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