The Orioles have spent the last few years hoping that a middle tier pitching prospect would develop into a quality major leaguer. Names like Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells, Cody Sedlock once elicited hope, but the Birds have yet to see a starting pitching prospect exceed expectations.
The Orioles selected Drew Rom in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. Rom, a 6-foot-2 lefty, currently ranks as Baltimore’s 19th best prospect according to MLB.com. Rom has been described as crafty, lanky and deceptive. Rom and the Orioles would settle for effective.
Rom does not throw the ball particularly hard, but the tall lefty uses a three-quarter arm slot release to keep hitters off balance. His fastball lives predominantly in the high 80s but can tick into the low 90s. Rom has worked to add strength to his slender frame, but the velocity will likely top out there. The fastball does benefit from an above average spin rate and the threat of quality offspeed pitches.
Rom used a sweeping slurve and an improved changeup to compliment the heater this season. Rom said back in April that he tweaked his changeup after spending some time around John Means. Suddenly, it’s possible to picture an Orioles’ rotation that includes both lefties at some point in 2023.
Matt Blood, the Orioles’ director of player development, recently described Rom as “a pitcher who has put himself on the map” this year. Rom struck out 144 batters in 26 games between Bowie and Norfolk. An injury to Grayson Rodriguez and an odd season for DL Hall made Rom a strong candidate for Baltimore’s minor league pitcher of the year, though the award ultimately went to right-hander Ryan Watson.
Rom began the season at Bowie after appearing in nine games with the Baysox in 2021. Rom posted a 7-2 record and a 1.470 WHIP in 19 games (18 starts) with Bowie this year. He picked up 101 strikeouts, issued 29 walks and posted a 4.37 ERA at Double-A.
The Orioles promoted Rom to Triple-A in the middle of August. The lefty limited opponents to two runs or less in his first four starts at Norfolk before struggling in his final three games. Rom delivered seven shutout innings at Memphis to lower his Triple-A ERA to 1.66, but the number ballooned to 5.46 after three duds to end the season.
It’s easy to compare Rom to a former minor league pitcher of the year winner in Wells. Both are crafty lefties that have demonstrated an ability to strikeout minor-league hitters with a low velocity fastball. Wells ranked as Baltimore’s 20th prospect at the beginning of the season but fell out of the Top 30 after suffering an early elbow injury.
Wells struggled through 11 appearances with the Orioles in 2021. The Orioles were not a competitive team that season, but project as a winning club moving forward. Rom will not be gifted playing time with Baltimore in 2023. He will need to earn it with a strong spring training and an impressive start in the minor leagues.
FanGraphs felt higher on Rom at the beginning of the season. Eric Longenhagen and the gang ranked Rom as the Orioles’ 15th best prospect back in February. FanGraphs has yet to update their rankings after the trade deadline, but MLB.com slated Seth Johnson (10), Chayce McDermott (13), and Cade Povich (14) ahead of Rom. However, Rom appears poised to beat those three to the bigs.
Rom faces an uphill battle in spring training next season. Dean Kremer, Austin Voth and Kyle Bradish will all be returning favorites. The Orioles could pick up Jordan Lyles’ option, and Grayson Rodriguez should be a factor from day one. Baltimore will likely bring in rotation candidates from outside the organization as well.
Rom does not project as an attractive bullpen candidate compared to someone like Hall. His low velocity will keep him away from the back end of the bullpen, and he will try to avoid the middle-relief Norfolk shuttle.
It’s fair to expect Rom to start at Triple-A and attempt to force his way into Baltimore. The Orioles must add Rom to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, so look for Rom to make a spot start and try to hang in the rotation at some point next season.
Tomorrow: International prospects