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Nationals first-round pick Seth Romero sent home for violating club policies

Seth Romero, who finished last season with the Auburn Doubledays, had a history of off-field issues before being taken in the first-round of the 2017 MLB draft. (Photo by Glenn Gaston)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Washington Nationals have sent 2017 first-round pick Seth Romero home from spring training for violating a club policy, according to a club spokesperson. Romero, 21, did not violate an MLB policy — just an organizational one — but no further information about the cause of his suspension was immediately available.

The Nationals drafted Romero 25th overall in the 2017 draft, eschewing a long-honed policy of avoiding players with off-field issues in favor of taking the most talented arm available. The hard-throwing lefty, who some within the organization felt could be major league ready as soon as this season, was kicked off his team at the University of Houston for a variety of offenses including a failed drug test, a picture taken in uniform with drug paraphernalia and a fistfight. At the time of the pick, General Manager Mike Rizzo said he made clear to Romero that the Nationals were not afraid to send him home after a misstep. Apparently, they were not.

The distinction between club rules and MLB rules gives little insight into the nature of the violation. Minor League Baseball tests its players regularly for performance enhancing drugs and drugs of abuse, so presumably any violation in that way would trespass on more than just club rules. But no one with the team has confirmed that conclusion. As one might expect, no one with the team was willing to give much more information at all.

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Romero finished last season in short-season Class A ball in the New York-Penn League. He pitched to a 4.91 ERA in 22 innings, showcasing a mid-90s fastball and a slider, as well as an in-progress change-up and curveball. The organization reported no disciplinary issues with Romero during his first professional half-season, and his coaches with the Auburn Doubledays said he was just one of the guys. Though minor league camp officially begins this week, Romero arrived in West Palm Beach early with a group of more advanced minor leaguers, many of whom have appeared in major league Grapefruit League games over the last two weeks. Romero had not appeared.

Baseball America rated Romero as the fifth-best prospect in the Nationals system and the best pitching prospect behind Erick Fedde, who made his major league debut last season. The Nationals have been short on left-handed pitching and traded a few lower-level left-handed prospects in deals for Brandon Kintzler and Howie Kendrick last summer. The duration of Romero’s exile is not yet clear, but as of right now, he is not participating in spring training, which deals a blow to the organizational pitching depth the Nationals have been trying to rebuild.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported Romero was sent home.

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