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An Introduction to Drew Rom

The Cardinals deadline acquisition made his MLB debut last night so let’s take a deeper look at what he brings to the table.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ya know, I gotta say, I was hoping that Drew Rom’s debut would go better. When it was first reported that Rom was getting promoted to the majors, I started working on this article and I figured that it would be more fun to read (and write) if it was coming a day after a great outing by Rom. Or at least not a terrible outing. But that’s not the case.

It was a rough day on the mound for the 23-year-old, who finished his debut with 8 runs (6 ER) on 8 hits and 4 walks in 3.2 innings. The lone bright spot is that Rom did manage to strike out 4, but really nothing went right for the lefty, though he certainly wasn’t helped by his defense.

Still, despite the rough debut, I want to dive into his profile a little bit because I haven’t written much about him yet. In fact, I belive I’ve only given given him a paragraph or two so far, and, since he’s now a major league player for the St. Louis Cardinals, it’s time to rectify that.

You may remember that after the trade deadline, I ranked each prospect by how excited I was about them. If you recall that article then you’ll remember that I ranked Drew Rom dead last of the 8 incoming prospects that I ranked (I intentionally left out Sammy Hernandez and John King).

That might imply that I’m pretty low on Rom but that’s not true. In fact, in that article, I ended my writeup on Rom by saying:

He’s actually pretty fun to watch if you like lefties with deception, though, so even if I am ranking him last, it’s not because I don’t like him. Rather, it’s because the Cardinals got so many other interesting and exciting prospects at the deadline.

So there you go. I’m not a Rom hater. With that said, I’m not exactly a Rom truther either. But before I delve into my high level thoughts about Rom, let’s get into his minor league numbers and pitch data.


I’m going to save myself some words and you the chore of reading them so here’s Rom’s Fangraphs page:

As you can see, he’s clearly a bat misser. You should also notice that he started walking more hitters after he reached Triple-A. Those are both key things to keep in mind.

I’ll also add that while his Triple-A stats with Baltimore look terrible this year, the International League has been brutal for pitchers. In total this season (in the minors), Rom has a 4.82 ERA. Yes that’s high but it’s also well below the league average ERA of 5.26. Rom’s BB/9 also looks high but the league average this year is 4.8 so Rom is actually a hair better than the league average.

The high walk rates and inflated offensive numbers in Triple-A are partially due to the level’s adoption of the automated balls and strikes (ABS) system. You might not think that would cause much of a change but the league average BB/9 last year was 4.0 and the league average ERA was 4.63 so it’s clearly had a hefty impact.

There could be other factors at play too but that would take further investigation and this article isn’t about that. I pointed this out simply to provide context to Rom’s seemingly poor numbers.

What I do want to focus on, though, is Rom’s bat-missing abilities. The lefty hasn’t posted a strikeout rate below 25% at any level above rookie ball and his 25.1% K-rate with Baltimore jumped to 43.9% in his first two starts in the Cardinals organization. That’s impressive for a pitcher with a 91 mph fastball.

If he can rediscover some of the control that he showed in his earlier minor league days, Rom could be working with a nice combination of missing bats and limiting walks. I’m curious about a lot of things in regard to Rom in the majors but seeing what happens to his walk rate when he pitches in front of actual umpires is pretty high on the list.

Pitch Level Data

This is where things get weird and interesting with Drew Rom. He seemingly misses more bats than he should but he’s done it consistently so there must be a reason. Before we dive in, let me provide the individual stuff+ grades for all of Rom’s pitches to help add some perspective and provide an introduction to his arsenal as a whole.

Drew Rom Stuff+ Grades

Pitch Stuff+ Location+ Pitching+ Usage
Pitch Stuff+ Location+ Pitching+ Usage
Four-Seam Fastball 92.4 103.1 99.6 48.2%
Sweeper 104.6 93.1 93.4 24.6%
Sinker 96.9 98.6 96.4 19.7%
Splitter 97.3 80.4 85.6 7.5%

You should notice that Rom’s sweeper is the only pitch that grades out as above average according to stuff+. That’s not exactly what you would expect from a bat misser. But that’s because Rom doesn’t just rely on pure stuff. He has a lot of deception and funkiness in his crossfire delivery that helps his stuff play up.

I’ll argue that this is most relevant with his fastball as a 91 mph heater isn’t going to blow anyone away. Rom combats that with his deception and funkiness but he also combats it by having good fastball shape.

It’s not a typical fastball shape either. It’s more of a cut and ride offering that averages 16.7 inches of induced vertical break and only 3.2 inches of run.

16.7 inches isn’t a ton of induced vertical break but it is above average. In fact, the MLB average this year on four-seam fastballs is 15.7 inches. So Rom has a full inch on the league average. That’s not spectacular but it certainly helps.

That’s only part of the story, though. Release point matters. It’s a whole lot harder to get 17 inches of induced vertical break from a low arm slot than it is from a regular arm slot. I’m not saying Rom throws from a particularly low arm slot but he does come from the side a bit and actually likes to drop his arm slot on occasion to mess with hitters.

I can’t get Rom’s induced vertical break numbers with his low arm slot pitches factored out but we can be sure that they do drag his numbers down. Probably not much but definitely a touch. It may not be unreasonable to think that Rom is closer to that 17 inch mark with his normal release.

That’s another thing worth mentioning too. Rom loves to mess around with his arm slot, and, in particular, he loves to throw some drop down sweepers and drop down fastballs. I’m terrible at differentiating sinkers from four-seamers when watching a lefty, and especially a funky lefty like Rom, so I can’t tell you if he drops down more on his sinker or his four-seamer but it’s something to take note of regardless.

This simply gives the hitter another look and Rom’s willingness to drop down on pretty much every pitch except for his split-change means that he isn’t too predictable when he does it. I would guess that this helps Rom’s stuff play up too. In fact, going beyond performance for a second, it’s one of the things that makes Rom so much fun to watch.

So, getting back to Rom’s fastball, it’s actually a pretty decent pitch despite the limited velocity. As you would expect with a pitch that rides, it’s at its best at the top of the zone and Rom has kept it effectively there since joining the organization.

The cutting action also means that the pitch plays pretty well against left-handed hitters. Rom likes to throw it a lot and he’s gotten a solid 20.4% whiff rate with it so it’s easy to see why. The concern that I have with it is that it can get hit pretty hard (90.4 mph) and that’s likely due to the low velocity.

To stay with the fastball theme, the next pitch I want to talk about is Rom’s sinker. This pitch isn’t as impressive as it’s actually thrown even softer (89.3 mph) and only gets a little under 15 inches of run (14.7 inches). It does have good depth but that’s not an overly impressive profile by any means. The pitch does generate a lot of ground balls (68.8 GB% in Triple-A) and hasn’t been hit as hard (86.2 mph) as his four-seamer, though, so it has had some success in Triple-A.

What I want to see is how Rom fares in the majors with this kind of arsenal. And what I really mean by that well can Rom pitch in the majors when he throws 2 different low-velocity fastballs almost 68% of the time combined? My guess would be not very well (and we saw that last night as 77% of Rom’s pitches were fastballs). And that’s why I had Rom ranked last in my post-trade deadline excitement list.

There’s a path to success with the two fastballs and it probably consists of three things. The first is throwing fewer fastballs overall as I simply have a hard time believing Rom can be successful in the majors with a nearly 70% fastball usage. That’s the high level view. To get more granular, Rom should probably target his sinker against lefties and use his four-seamer against righties, and, specifically, use his four-seamer up in the zone and to get in on righties.

Now let’s get to the other two pitches in Rom’s arsenal.

Rom’s go-to secondary is his sweeper which isn’t too exciting of a pitch. Stuff+ thinks it’s pretty good but I would love to see it be a little sweepier as it only averaged 12.5 inches of sweep which is below average considering it’s lack of velocity (80.7 mph). The pitch has also missed bats at a 22.2% clip which isn’t that high for a breaking pitch.

The final pitch in Rom’s arsenal is a splitter. He does a great job of killing the spin on this pitch and that gives it a good amount of depth and vertical separation from Rom’s four-seamer. The pitch is much more vertically oriented so it doesn’t get a ton of run but that’s okay.

The lefty doesn’t it throw it all that often but I would be intrigued to see what happens if he threw it more. I would like to see him take another few ticks off the pitch as it only has about 7 mph of velocity separation from the four-seamer but it looks like a promising offering to me. Considering that Rom is a lefty and is almost guaranteed to face more righties, he has plenty of opportunity to increase his splitter usage, since he mostly uses the pitch against opposite handed batters.

The Future

Rom’s debut emphasizes the problems I expected Rom to have at the major league level. The lefty struggled to miss bats and didn’t have a lot of success with his fastball-heavy approach. It’s only one game. though, and that one game doesn’t change my view of Rom in the slightest.

When I make my assessment of Rom in the next sentence, I’m not weighting his MLB debut at all. With that said, Rom looks like a tweener to me. And when I say tweener, I mean that he looks like someone who’s caught between starting and relieving and, to be honest, I view Rom as more of a reliever/spot starter going forward.

He’s still only 23 years old and exactly one game into his major league career so there’s still some variance left in my projection of Rom. I could be completely wrong and he could turn into a solid starter, but I just have too many questions about the profile to put him in that role right now.

If he works his way into that role, I expect it to be because he dropped his fastball usage, regained some control, and started using his splitter more. Otherwise, it’s easy to see him as a reliever who focuses on his four-seamer and sweeper and gets a helpful uptick in velocity in shorter outings.

So I’m not condemning Rom to the bullpen at this point in his career, I’m simply stating that in his range of potential outcomes, I think the bullpen is where he’s most likely to end up. I’m still excited to see more of him, though, and see how he bounces back from his rough debut.

The funky delivery, arm slot manipulation, and cut/ride fastball are intriguing to me and I could see him making some tweaks as he learns how his stuff plays against major league hitters.


At this point in the season, it’s nice to see the Cardinals giving young players a chance to show what they can do at the major league level. Not every debut is going to go well and that’s okay. It’s still exciting to watch guys like Rom get the chance to show what they can do.

Even though I’m not high on Rom, I still think he’s a fascinating prospect. The stuff doesn’t jump out but he’s had no problems missing bats in the minors. I have a lot of questions as to how well his stuff will play in the majors and what kind of tweaks he will make (if any) going forward and I can’t wait to learn more about Rom as he starts to answer those questions.

Thanks for reading, VEB. Have a great Tuesday.