Entering the 2022 season, the Colorado Rockies‘ no. 2 prospect is catcher Drew Romo. Romo was drafted as the Rockies second pick of the first round in 2020 and was drafted 35th overall.
Many within the baseball industry liked the pick because Romo was considered to be one of, if not, the best defensive players in the 2020 Draft overall and one of the best defensive catchers to come out of the draft “in years.” However, some analysts were not quite as high on him because of his bat.
ESPN’S Kiley McDaniel was in the latter camp but when he released his top 100 prospects list last week, Romo was McDaniel’s no. 85 overall prospect. That ranking put Romo highest among any media outlet.
In his description, McDaniel said that he had made a “180” on Romo because of his 2021 and on Wednesday, McDaniel spoke with Rox Pile on why he made that “180.”
ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel is now bullish on Colorado Rockies catching prospect Drew Romo.
In recent years, ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel has been bearish on high school catchers and catchers, in general. After all, look at the league now. Especially with Buster Posey’s retirement, it’s not like the second coming of a phenomenal offensive catcher like Johnny Bench is waiting in the wings for teams. However, Colorado Rockies catching prospect Drew Romo had a very high contact rate in his first year in playing professional baseball.
McDaniel told Rox Pile on Wednesday that, before the 2020 Draft, he thought Romo’s power and contact were “up-and-down.” For that reason, the recent track record of catchers developing as hitters, and the development of hitters by the Rockies in recent years (or lack thereof), McDaniel said that he was not as high Romo as some others.
“The Rockies don’t have the greatest record of developing more contact in guys that have it already,” McDaniel told Rox Pile on Wednesday.
“I think they are actually pretty good at drafting high school hitters but they tend to be finished products that tend to just show up and continuing to do about what you’d (expect). So I think (the Rockies) are pretty good at just getting out of the way and letting those guys do what they do. (For) Romo, I thought that there was work to get done so I was like ‘let’s see if they can do it.'”
But McDaniel (and others) were proven wrong, at least thus far, with Romo’s bat.
“And then, some combination of somebody figured out how to get him to have an above-average contact rate. I’m looking at his numbers (from Low-A Fresno in 2021) right now and I say ‘man, I see why I put him on there.’ I didn’t see that coming,” said McDaniel.
Romo played in 79 games for Fresno and he had six homers, 47 RBI, 17 doubles, and a slash line of .314/.345/.439. That amounted to a 104 wRC+.
Now, McDaniel is high on Romo because of that contact rate on top of his defense and high baseball IQ.
“Now, the fact that he has all of the pedigree, has all of the tools, was drafted high, they believe in him, this is the demographic that they tend to do better than some other teams with, and now, he’s performed (in the minors), the only thing you can say (on the negative end) is that ‘well, he didn’t hit for power as a 19-year old in Low-A when you see tons of contact,’ which is pretty silly to be nit-picking like that,” said McDaniel.
If Romo’s bat keeps developing, then the Rockies may have made a terrific draft pick, considering that some analysts thought that his floor was a backup MLB catcher if his bat didn’t develop at all.