Conway on how Rom "didn't skip a beat" in 2021

The anticipation surrounding the major league debuts by top Orioles pitching prospects Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall in 2022 is thicker than wet concrete.

The foundation of the rebuild.

MLBPipeline.com ranks Rodriguez as the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball and eighth overall. Hall is 72nd overall.

Drew Rom isn't in the top 100. He's 25th among Orioles prospects, the seventh pitcher listed and the fourth left-hander after Hall, Kevin Smith and Zac Lowther.

Pitchers who didn't match Rom's success in 2021.

Orioles-Pins-Shirt-Sidebar.jpgA stress reaction in Hall's left elbow ruined his season after only seven starts with Double-A Bowie, where he struck out 56 batters in 31 2/3 innings and was barreling toward something really special. Rom, meanwhile, went a combined 11-1 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 23 games (20 starts) between Single-A Aberdeen and Bowie. and struck out 120 batters with 26 walks in 107 2/3 innings.

It's laughable to omit him from discussions about future starters in the Orioles rotation. A Rom-com, if you will.

No one on the farm had more wins, if you still value that stat. Or even if you don't. It's still fact. His ERA was second behind Rodriguez (2.36) among pitchers with 80 or more innings.

While some other prospects stumbled after receiving promotions to the next level, Rom never broke stride. He was 8-0 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .236 average against and 73 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings with Aberdeen. The Kentucky native and fourth-rounder in 2018 was 3-1 with a 3.83 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, .230 average against and 47 strikeouts in 40 innings with the Baysox.

In four September games, including the playoffs, the 21-year-old Rom tossed 19 scoreless innings with 10 hits, one walk and 25 strikeouts.

"Drew had a very, very good season last year," said Josh Conway, Aberdeen's pitching coach in 2021 who's moving up to Bowie. "He had a really good season in 2019 and he was on my call list for 2020, so we communicated a ton during COVID. He had his ducks in a row and got a lot of work done and really focused on the things that he needed to focus on. Basically didn't really skip a beat coming back into the 2021 season.

"Being 21, 20 years old at the high-A level after missing a season, he came in prepared and really worked hard throughout the season and progressed as he went until he got moved up to Bowie, then obviously kept progressing and finished really strong there. Kudos to him for working hard and not letting 2020 affect him and coming in ready to go and competing every night for us. It was really nice to see."

Strikeouts seem to come naturally to Rom, who totaled 116 in 60 innings as a high school senior and accepted an above-slot $650,000 bonus from the Orioles rather than attend the University of Michigan. He fanned 122 batters in 95 1/3 innings with low Single-A Delmarva in 2019 and his deception allows him to routinely generate weak contact.

Rom is counted among the minor league pitchers who increased their velocity over the course of last summer.

"From the left side, he's got a couple arm slots," Conway said. "He has multiple pitches that he knows how to use. This year, he did a really good job of cleaning up the delivery to get him a little bit more zip on the fastball toward the end of his time with me. He knows how to use his stuff.

"He's very aware of the questions he needs to ask that pertain to him personally. He stays on course with his work and his repertoire. Obviously, he has the fastball that he can use at the top of the zone and he pairs it really well with the slider. He's got that split that was really, really solid this season for him, especially as he cleaned up the delivery. And he explored a little bit of a slot change this year. Not every single pitch, but he would flash at times like a lower three-quarters to keep hitters off balance. He used that as needed as the season went on and got really comfortable with it.

"There were times where if the breaking ball wasn't there that day that he was able to flash the sidearm action to really give him a different look to kind of buy him some time until he found the breaking ball later in the game."

The Orioles appear to have found a gem in the fourth round.

Note: The Orioles are conducting a pitching minicamp this week in Sarasota, with a group of 14, including members of the 2021 draft class and undrafted free agent signees. The camp ends Saturday.

Justin Ramsey, Joe Haumacher and Ryan Goll are running the camp.

Other camps will be held later in the month.

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