It was a very busy trade deadline for the St. Louis Cardinals. With this being a lost season, the Cardinals decided to move expiring contracts to contending teams and get young pitchers in return that have swing-and-miss stuff, which is desperately needed at the moment.
In the final minutes of the trade deadline, the Cardinals pulled off a trade with the Baltimore Orioles, who have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball. The Cardinals traded Jack Flaherty to Baltimore in exchange for infielder Cesar Prieto, who was the Orioles' number 16 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, young pitcher Zack Showalter, and a pitcher who we will be evaluating here, Drew Rom.
Rom is a left-handed pitcher who was Baltimore's number 18 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He is now currently the number 26 prospect for the Cardinals and will report to Triple A-Memphis. Drew Rom was drafted by the Orioles in the fourth round of the 2018 MLB draft and made a quick jump up the ranks in the O's minor league system. He made 9 starts in rookie ball after getting drafted, and despite not winning any of those starts, he had a 1.76 ERA and recorded 28 strikeouts to just 6 walks in over 30 innings pitched.
In 2019, Rom was moved up to A ball where he saw more success, going 6-3 with a 2.93 ERA across 15 starts and putting up big strikeout numbers, getting 122 K's in just 95+ innings of work. There was no minor league season in 2020 due to the pandemic but missing an entire year did not affect Rom's development. In High A, he had an 8-0 record in 14 starts with a 2.79 ERA the year minor league baseball returned and was still averaging over a strikeout an inning. This success got Rom a promotion to Double A-Bowie in just his third professional season. In 7 starts with Bowie, he had a 3.83 ERA and recorded 47 strikeouts in 40 innings.
Last season in Rom's 4th season professionally, he was called up to Triple A-Norfolk and he has spent all of this season in Norfolk. His numbers in Triple-A have not been as impressive, in 25 starts with Norfolk he had an ERA over 5, gave up over a hit an inning, and had an elevated walk rate while still getting over a strikeout an inning. Rom is a pitcher with a lot of upside but still needs to work on run prevention in the higher levels of the minors before he can pitch in the big leagues. Overall in his minor league career, he is 32-15 with a 3.79 ERA in 87 starts, and most importantly for the Cardinals, he has a 10.5 K/9 rate.
So how does Rom pitch? He is very deceptive, Rom takes advantage of his tall frame and the angle at which he releases the ball to mess with the timing of hitters. Like most of the current Cardinal pitching prospects he doesn't throw hard, he has seen an uptick in the velocity of his fastball but he's not going to blow anyone away with it in the big leagues.
When it comes to scouting minor league players, scouts use a 20-80 scale. 20-30 is ranked well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average, and 70-80 is well above average. MLB Pipeline has Rom's fastball and changeup at "average" his slurve at slightly above average, his control is slightly below average, and his overall is below average.
Rom has been added to the Cardinals' 40-man roster so it is possible that we will see him pitch for the Cardinals this year, but it is more likely that we will see him next year. As it stands right now, the only locks in the Cardinal rotation for 2024 will be Miles Mikolas and Steven Matz, leaving 3 open spots to fill. We expect the Cardinals to be very aggressive in the free agent market for starting pitching this off-season unless they want to be sellers at the deadline again next year, but there are going to be auditions for some younger pitchers to earn a chance to be in the rotation next season.
Matthew Liberatore and Dakota Hudson are currently in the rotation filling the spots left by Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty, but there is a handful of top prospects in Triple-A right now, including two more deadline acquisitions Sem Robberse and Adam Kloffenstein who could potentially crack the rotation, it is wide open at the moment, we can expect Rom to get a chance as well. But with Rom not being a velocity guy, he will have to clean up the walks he has given up in Triple-A and rely on his deceptive delivery to keep missing bats in the big leagues. If he can do that we might see Rom with the Cardinals in 2024.