Drew Romo and the Sixth Tool

Written by: Mason McRae (@mason_mcrae)

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The success of a baseball team—a young one at that—is often engineered by the traits each player on that team possesses.

When looking for the reasoning behind the success of USA’s National Team this past summer, look no further than the man who handled the catching duties for 16 of their last 18 international games. The invaluable traits that Drew Romo, a The Woodlands, Texas product, possesses have played a crucial part to the US’s 2018 Pan-American Championship Gold Medal and 16-2 record. 

Talent is far from scarce on the United States’ developmental programs. Last year’s team alone produced six (Witt, Volpe, Malone, Greene, Carroll, Abrams) first round picks in the 2019 MLB Draft and eleven draft picks total when you factor in the five (Short, Meador, Callihan, Faltine, Leiter) who were selected after the first round. It goes without saying that playing on the 18U roster is a huge accomplishment, but a select few every year are talented enough to play on the 18U roster as a 17-year-old. Romo and Pete Crow-Armstrong were the only two members of this year’s team to play for the US on numerous occasions. 

In his two years playing for the United States, Romo was a standout player off-the-field, at-the-plate and behind-the-plate. In his 16 career games, Romo slashed .345/.514/.500 with 18 hits, 13 runs, 5 extra base hits, 15 RBI and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 12:15. His keen ball/strike recognition and advanced strength for his age created a combination that set him apart from his teammates, but his talent on the field wasn’t the only thing that distinguished himself from his teammates.

In his lengthy time playing for the US, Romo was labeled as a “gamer, super kid, and hard-working student of the game” and the coaches on the staff were well-aware just how important he was. A former USA Baseball official had this to say about Romo when I asked about him this past week.

“Drew is one of the most consistent high school players in this year’s draft. He’s a premier catcher with the ability to lead an entire pitching staff”

Prep prospects such Zac Veen and Austin Hendrick are fun to video scout,  but the sixth-tool Drew Romo has is something a box score, spreadsheet or video can’t convey; it’s something that only the coaches and players around him have noticed. Never disregard the value of leadership, which is a quality few prospects possess. 

I’ve gone on record for months-upon-months about the talent of Romo. He comes from a high school that’s already produced many big leaguers, including first-round picks Kyle Drabek and Jameson Taillon. He comes from a state that breeds baseball talent, including last year’s 2nd, 7th, 8th, 9th, 12th and 17th overall picks, along with many other picks throughout the rest of the draft.

The concern regarding Romo centers around something completely out of his control: the highly volatile history of his given demographic—prep catchers. And while you have to consider the scary history of catchers drafted and signed out of high school, it’s something you can’t hold against Romo.

Offensively, Romo hits for contact from both sides of the plate at an above average clip. He’s got a plus-approach and well above average ball/strike recognition. And while he’s a strong hitter, he’s got below average power and struggles to hit for power in games, as emphasized by his one home run for the US in 16 international games.

Romo’s profile has garnered interest more so for his abilities behind-the-plate rather than at-the-plate, which scares people who put a heavy emphasis on the history of a player’s position group. Behind-the-plate, Romo has a plus-arm and a plus feel for the game. He’s an elite receiver, and he obviously helps neutralize the opponent’s running game. When Romo was behind the plate, opponents stole six bags in ten attempts, for a 40% caught stealing rate. Compared to his own team’s 81.8% success rate (36/44), Romo was an instrumental piece of the United State’s successful pitching staff that posted a 2.72 and 3.13 ERA in 2018 and 2019.

Whether Romo goes at the end of the first round, beginning of the second round, or late enough that he’s persuaded to honor his commitment to LSU, the next team he plays for will be getting an elite baseball player and leader.


Follow P365 MLB Draft Analyst Mason McRae on Twitter! @mason_mcrae

Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365

Featured image courtesy of photographer Jason Fochtman and the Houston Chronicle

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