Drew Rom’s pursuit of major league pitches was underway long before the young lefthander was added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster on Nov. 15. Now, it’s a bit more pressing.
He was added for many reasons, ranging from his consistent success, his wide array of pitches to hitters in either batter’s box and his promise entering his age-23 season.
But no matter how Rom has succeeded, he and the Orioles know success at the highest level will be defined by whether he’s able to keep his low-90s fastball in the higher bands of its velocity range to allow his arsenal to play.
“Of course, everyone wants to hit 100 (mph), but for me, I’m going to be realistic. I just want to sit mid 90s,” Rom said. “I think that would just kind of be a prime, optimum kind of velo for me
“And it would just take a step forward with all of my stuff and really, hopefully, catapult me into that next category where I can really make a name for myself out there.”
The 2018 fourth-rounder from Highlands High in Fort Thomas, Ky., has steadily developed in the mold common for projectable lefthanders. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound Rom was in the 88-91 mph range in Low-A Delmarva in 2019, then used the shutdown in 2020 to get stronger and sit comfortably in the low 90s while facing former big leaguers in a developmental league back in Kentucky.
He used that little extra velocity, a new attack plan in which he pitches backwards and a wrinkle where he drops down to face lefthanded hitters, while maintaining a higher arm slot against righthanded ones, to climb to Triple-A.
The Orioles’ pitching program fixates on what will allow pitchers to succeed in the majors, and they and Rom know a little extra velocity will help.
Rom said he’ll train with Tread Athletics this winter in pursuit of that, as well as focusing on his changeup to help hone the pitch into a consistent weapon.
— Heston Kjerstad, the second overall pick in the 2020 draft, won the Arizona Fall League MVP award. Kjerstad, who made his pro debut in 2022 after missing all of 2021 with myocarditis, led the AFL in several offensive categories and had a 1.007 OPS.
— Yusniel Diaz, a former top prospect in the Orioles system, was outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency on Nov. 10, ending his time with the organization. The outfielder was the centerpiece of the July 2018 trade that sent Manny Machado to the Dodgers. He made his MLB debut in August.