Drew Romo Is Proving His Potential for the Colorado Rockies’ Future
It’s not always easy to deliver in a clutch situation. Yet, with the go-ahead run at second and only one out in the sixth inning, Drew Romo delivered a single up the middle, giving the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes the lead at the time and keeping their playoff dreams alive for a little while longer. Not too bad for a 22-year-old catcher making his Triple-A debut.
When the Colorado Rockies selected Romo in 2020 with their Competitive Balance Round A draft pick, it was with the expectation that he could become the franchise catcher they’ve always looked forward to. Throughout high school in The Woodlands, Texas, Romo was a glove-first attraction showing tremendous potential for any big league team looking for the next great catcher. Add in the fact that he was a switch-hitter that could improve offensively and it could pay off for the Rockies in the long run.
2023 has proven that to be the case more than ever before.
Journey through the Minors
Romo’s journey through the Rockies’ minor league system has been a step-by-step process. In 2021 he began his professional career with the Low-A Fresno Grizzlies where he batted .314/.345/.439 in 71 games. The next season with the High-A Spokane Indians was hampered by a hand injury in the second half, but Romo still hit .254 with a .693 OPS. Then, in 2023, Romo began the year in Double-A with the Hartford Yard Goats, a level and location that has proven a difficult place to hit but is a true crucible for development.
It’s fair to say that Romo got off to a slow start through April and May this season. By the end of May, Romo was batting just .208/.254/.312 with three home runs and 23 strikeouts over 125 at-bats. However, once the weather began to warm up even more over the summer months, as did Romo’s bat. Suddenly, the young catcher playing in a league where the average age is around 24 years old, two years older than himself, began to adapt and see his offensive numbers tick upwards. In the month of June, Romo batted .286/.313/.536 to raise his season batting average up to a .232 clip. While the strikeouts and walks remained consistent with his prior production, he was finding more success in the contact he was making.
Through the month of July, he continued more of the same production, reaching a level of consistency that he achieved in the prior two levels of his journey and progression. The pinnacle of his offensive prowess and potential was realized on July 28 while playing the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. In a 13-8 victory, Romo propelled his team forward as the difference maker with three hits, belting three home runs to drive in five runs, resulting in 12 total bases. It was an incredible feat and one that would be replicated a mere six weeks later on September 7 against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
By the time the Double-A season ended, Romo was batting .254/.313/.440 with a career-high 13 home runs to go along with 48 RBI. Additionally, he continues to show a knack for some plate discipline, striking out 67 times to 29 walks. In most categories, he was one of the top catchers in the Eastern League in 2023. He was then promptly promoted to Triple-A where in three games he has gone 4-for-13 with a triple and three RBI.
Romo’s offensive upside lies in his ability to make contact. Through three professional seasons, he has yet to register a strikeout rate above 20%. In conjunction, he has an average walk rate near 8% which falls in line with the league average rating. He’s not doing anything spectacular, but he is doing enough at the plate that those two rates on fairly normal to any regular player. His ability to make contact is a valuable trait, especially for a catcher, and he’s consistent with his batted ball profile. He averages a line drive around 20% of the time, a ground ball 40% of the time, and a fly ball 40% of the time. It’s an even spread that does leave room for improvement but it has developed nicely since being drafted.
There is the fact that being a switch-hitter also has its advantages. It’s worth noting that Romo’s success has mainly come against left-handed pitching. While batting right-handed in 2023, Romo has a .281 AVG compared to a .184 AVG against right-handed pitching and has belted 12 of his 13 home runs from the right side of the plate. He may continue to try and develop the left-handed hitting, but at some point dropping the left-side could help him further his career. What is clear though is that he can hit for power with 34 extra-base hits, and could improve that even more if he can refine his somewhat aggressive, free-swinging nature at the plate. What he is doing now is working, but there is also more room for improvement and his bat is something the Rockies should be excited about.
A Glove of Gold
What will truly make Romo so desirable and valuable for the Rockies is his defensive abilities. Even from a young age, Romo has shown that he is among the best behind the dish. He warrants an air of veteran know-how and expertise behind the dish. Over the course of three seasons, he has gunned down 61 would-be base stealers while maintaining a .986 fielding percentage and has allowed 30 passed balls. At the age of 22, there is only room for growth for Romo to get better as he continues to work with the pitchers in the organization.
This work behind the plate will be of the utmost importance for the Rockies. As the next generation of Rockies pitchers crack through to the big leagues, the torch will have to be passed to someone like Romo to help them navigate the gauntlet of Major League Baseball. By all accounts, he is capable of punching above his weight class and becoming the franchise catcher the organization has been seeking. It stands to reason that he will begin the 2024 season at Triple-A with a real chance to make his debut at some point. Current All-Star catcher Elías Díaz is under contract for one more season but could be a trade candidate in the offseason.
The future is bright for the Rockies, despite the train wreck that the 2023 season has been. The youth movement is coming and there is plenty of potential for the next generation to be excited about, and finally, the Rockies have a catching prospect proving his potential for the future.