READING — Seven of the Phillies' top 12 prospects are pitchers, with righthander Sixto Sanchez and his triple-digit fastball leading the way in single A. Meanwhile, lefthander JoJo Romero is a prospect in the midst of arguably his best stretch as a minor leaguer. The Phillies' fourth-round pick in 2016 has turned things around at double A after an ugly start to 2018.
"He was trying to do too much," Reading manager Greg Legg said of Romero. "He had an arsenal of all these pitches — a two-seamer, a four-seamer, a slider, a cutter, a curveball, a change-up. In the first three hitters of a game, he's trying to do all of it. … The biggest thing since his first four or five starts here was that he simplified his attack."
The 21-year-old Californian has plenty of power with a fastball that tops out around 95 mph and a power sinker. What he's tried to do recently is lean more heavily on that pitch, mixing in his change-up and slider to keep hitters off balance while also maintaining better command of the strike zone.
As a result, Romero has surrendered two or fewer runs in each of his last six outings and in four of those starts, he's thrown seven innings. Romero's WHIP has also fallen from 1.75 at the end of April to 1.29 with a 3.80 ERA.
"They say, 'If you can pitch at this level, you can pitch at the big leagues,' so it's a matter of just trying to not put that pressure on ourselves," Romero said when asked about the difference between single and double A. "We have to perform … but in reality, it's just about doing what got you here."
Romero has been mentioned as a potential chip in trade talks. Although the Phillies have hinted that Sanchez is untouchable, Romero, Clearwater righty Adonis Medina and Lehigh Valley's Ranger Suarez are all 22 years or younger with major-league potential.
But neither Legg nor Romero has thought much about the possibility of the young hurler leaving Reading anytime soon.
"It's just about keeping the approach I have right now and seeing how the second half could be," Romero said.
To call Cornelius Randolph's 2018 returns to date miserable might be an understatement.
Randolph, the Phillies' 2015 first-round pick out of Griffin High School in central Georgia, is hitting .216 with 70 strikeouts in 278 at-bats. And his power numbers haven't made up for his inconsistency at the dish — after hitting 13 homers at high-A Clearwater in 2017, Randolph has just one this year at double-A Reading.
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Legg is still positive about the 21-year-old outfielder's progress.
"Defensively, his throwing is so much better," Legg said. "The way he approaches the game is off the charts. He's been swinging the bat well the last three to four weeks and could probably have another 10 hits in there where he got robbed or hit line drives right at people."
Randolph went hitless in four at-bats Sunday, striking out twice.
Also struggling in the Fightin' Phils' series finale against Bowie was starter Connor Seabold. Last year's third-round selection out of Cal State Fullerton allowed runs in three of the first four innings and his ERA sits at 6.63 through four starts since his promotion from high-A Clearwater.