Harpooned by a finger injury in the midst of his 2020 breakout, Jordan Romano suffered another blow to his fantasy upside when Toronto signed free agent Kirby Yates . It's reasonable expecting Yates to take over the primary role as closer for the Blue Jays, but be sure to back him up and even capitalize on ancillary saves from Romano in 2021.

Over 15 appearances last year, Romano won two of his three decisions along with recording two saves with a robust 21:5 K:BB, 1.23 ERA, 2.59 SIERA and 0.89 WHIP. His strikeout percentage surged to 36.8 with an 8.8 walk rate resulting in a 28.1 K-BB percentage. Beneath his surface numbers, an eye popping 19.4 swinging strike percentage and career low 58.9 contact rate against insulated his minuscule ratio statistics.

So, what happened? Romano took a major step forward with his wipeout slider and elevated his four-seam fastball out of the strike zone for strikeout upside evidenced by this chart courtesy of Statcast:

Delving further into his Statcast data, Romano recorded a .174 expected batting average (xBA), .254 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) and 2.70 xERA. Supported by a two MPH gain with his fastball, his whiff percentage jumped by 14.3 points to 43.8 percent. He also cut zone contact by 7.2 percentage points with a 58.1 ground ball rate and 51.6 topped percent of his batted ball data.

His arsenal took a step forward as well:

  • Romano Slider: .227 xBA, .308 xwOBA, -8 degree launch angle, 38.6 whiff percentage, 26.7 put away percent, 38.6 strikeout rate
  • Romano 4-seam Fastball: .089 xBA, .175 xwOBA, 24 degree launch angle, 52.4 whiff percentage, 43.3 put away percent, 56.5 strikeout rate

Transitioning to Brooks Baseball for more traditional results. The song remains the same regarding Romano:

  • Romano 4-seam Fastball: 22.5 SwStr%, 28.6 GB%
  • Romano Slider: 19.6 SwStr%, 66.7 GB%

Taking all of this into account, how does one reasonably project the back-up closer on a contender? Here's how five different systems foresee his 2021:

Injury issues or Toronto managing Yates workload could yield a chance for double digit saves with terrific ratio statistics if Romano carries over the gains displayed last year. It may not be a sexy pick, but getting him as a backup or as a third reliever with upside should not be overlooked in a volatile market.

UPDATE (3/24):

With news Yates may miss the season, move Romano up draft boards immediately. He may not be a traditional closer, but lines up for the majority share of chances per this tweet:

Plus, his first outing after the news, he struck out the side:

Giddy up!


Statistical Credits:




THE BAT courtesy of Derek Carty

ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen


ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborsk