Image credit: Drew Rom is headed to St. Louis in the Jack Flaherty trade. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
The Orioles and Cardinals agreed to a trade just prior to the deadline. St. Louis sent Jack Flaherty to the Orioles for infielder Cesar Prieto, lefthander Drew Rom and righthander Zack Showalter. While this may not be the blockbuster deal many Orioles fans clamored for, it does add a reliable rotation option to a first place roster.
Flaherty started his career off with a bang, producing two well above-average seasons before the age of 24. However, over the last four seasons Flaherty has struggled with health and effectiveness. At just 27 years old, Flaherty will hit the open free agent market for the first time after the season. Following two difficult months in May and June, Flaherty hit his stride in July, pitching to a 3.03 ERA over 29.2 innings. He will slide into the Orioles rotation.
The Cardinals finish off their deadline day fire sale with the addition of three top 30 prospects from one of the top systems in the game. Cesar Prieto provides the Cardinals with a polished close-to-the-majors bat with average or better long-term projection. Rom provides another close-to-the-majors starter, something the Cardinals have coveted in this flurry of activity. In Showalter the Cardinals may have acquired a pitcher who immediately has one of the best fastballs in their system and arguably as much upside as any pitcher in their system.
Jack Flaherty, RHP
Once viewed as the future of the Cardinals rotation, injuries and ineffective pitching have seen Flaherty become an after thought in recent seasons. At just 27 years old, there’s hope Flaherty can recapture his former glory. Over the last month Flaherty has found his best form, and the Orioles surely hope that trend continues. After throwing over 50% fastballs over the last two seasons, Flaherty cut his fastball usage, using his cutter and curveball instead. During his hot month of July, Flaherty curbed his cutter almost entirely, using his curveball and slider at the highest rate of the season. Perhaps this is the sequencing behind Flaherty’s improved command and production in July. How the Orioles sequence Flaherty will be something to watch for. His ability to provide quality innings as a starter is vital for a team that just demoted Tyler Wells.
Cesar Prieto, 2B
Signed out of Cuba in January of 2022, Prieto defected to the United States while on a trip with the Cuban National Team in Miami. Since signing he’s been a steady and productive player in the minor leagues. After a solid debut where Prieto hit .273/.314/.404 across two levels he took off in 2023. He hit .364/.406/.476 across 58 games for Double-A Bowie and was among the leaders in several categories at the level. He was promoted to Triple-A in late June and hit .317/.365/.471 over his first 27 games at the level. Prieto lacks average power or speed, and is limited defensively but his hit tool is extremely advanced. He has near-90% contact rate and a in-zone contact rate over 90%. He is an aggressive swinger but his innate bat-to-ball skills allow this approach to work.
Drew Rom, LHP
Rom ranked No. 16 in the Orioles system prior to the trade. He’s been a steady performer for the Orioles after being added to the 40-man roster last offseason. Rom has spent all of the 2023 season with Triple-A Norfolk making 18 starts for Norfolk. Rom has found some success as a starter despite a lack of premium velocity or command. This season Rom has struck out 100 batters over 86 innings but walks have gotten him into trouble. He mixes four pitches, including his two fastball shapes, with a low-90s four-seam with cut, a two-seam fastball with true sink, a low-80s sweeping slider and a splitter that’s his best secondary.
Zack Showalter, RHP
Showalter was drafted in the 11th round of the 2022 draft out of Wesley Chapel (Fla.) High and signed for an above-slot bonus of $440,000. He debuted in the Florida Complex League to rave reviews this summer, earning a promotion to Low-A Delmarva by late June. Showalter’s fastball relies on outlier release height characteristics and above-average velocity. He mixes a slider, curveball and changeup but none of his secondaries flash better than average at the moment. Showalter is a high-value lottery ticket that could pay off. He has the highest potential ceiling of the three prospects the Cardinals acquired, but he’s also the furthest from the big leagues.