Colorado gets solid defense at No. 35 in Romo

June 12th, 2020

DENVER -- Drew Romo likes getting away from the crowd to stand above it.

Romo, 18, a catcher chosen 35th overall by the Rockies out of The Woodlands (Texas) High School on Wednesday in the 2020 MLB Draft, was a fine a middle infielder in youth ball. But so were a lot of other players, so he wanted to move behind the plate.

“I mean, just not a lot of people do it,” Romo said. “Catching is a grind. I love all the hard work that comes with it. You know, if you go to showcases as you're growing up, there's 50 shortstops, 50 outfielders and then like seven or eight catchers. For me, t was really easy to stand out. It made a lot of sense for me, and I just loved doing it.”

Of course, that was then. A high school catcher trying to make it in the pro ranks isn’t so easy.

While Romo committed to LSU after his sophomore year of high school, there is little chance he is going to college. The Rockies avoid using high picks on high schoolers who may be difficult to sign, and Romo’s Draft slot, in Competitive Balance Round A, is valued at $2.10 million.

Romo -- selected after the Rockies drafted Port Orange (Fla.) Spruce Creek High outfielder Zac Veen ninth overall pick -- knows that high school catchers have had a difficult time going to pro ball without some college seasoning. But he also has caught for the 18-and-under Team USA the last two years, and the track record one of the exceptions intrigues him.

“The last catcher to play on two straight Team USA 18U teams was Joe Mauer,” Romo said, referring to the Twins' former six-time All-Star. “And I did that, as well, with the national team the last two times in a row. That gives me a lot of confidence heading into my pro career.”

Romo is a confident guy with baseball in his blood.

“I would stand in front of the TV in my diaper as a little baby -- my parents have pictures of me,” he said.

His father was a successful high school coach in San Antonio until the family moved to the Houston area, in part so Drew could play for the Banditos – a strong travel ball program. Drew would often tag along with his older brother, Dylan, who would play at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa.

From diaper to chest protector, Romo learned to not just play but become the type of leader that separated him from others. Draft analysts said he was the best defensive player at any position, and his advanced willingness and ability to work pitchers through games attracted pro scouts. The Rockies took Romo with the highest pick they’ve ever used on a catcher.

You can’t quantify it as much as see and feel it in action. Rockies scouting vice president Bill Schmidt’s philosophy is the stats of a high school player can tell you something, but observation -- on the field, in the dugout, even before and after the game -- can be as important.

“It’s just his presence on the field,” Schmidt said. “You talk to not only his teammates but also coaches that have had him, they classify him as a field-general-type guy. He’s received respect by his teammates. He’s invested in the pitchers. He’s not selfish. He’s trying to help guys through at game. Those are things you see watching the game and watching Drew play.”

Romo was hitting .232 with six extra-base hits for The Woodlands when the high school season halted by the coronavirus pandemic, one season removed from batting .397 with 17 doubles, four home runs and 35 RBIs during an all-state performance in 2019. Beyond that, some analysts considered him the best defensive player at any position among high schoolers.

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich agreed that in-game readings chiefly informed the decision, but pre-Draft Zoom conferences with him and others who had been around him confirmed the often glowing reviews of Romo’s leadership from the coaching and scouting community.

“When you do have conversations with all these kids, you ask them questions about their teammates,” Bridich said. “So many of these top players at the high school level have played with each other on the national stage or against each other on the national stage to some degree and spent time together. So you can gain certain understandings or opinions of players.

“Pitchers raved about him and the confidence that they had on the mound, throwing to him. A lot of those player-to-player evaluations and opinions go a long way.”

Schmidt said the Rockies have been following Romo for a while. An assistant to the scout, Jon Lukens, saw him up close in Korea during September’s 18U World Championships, and he caught in Panama in a tournament last year. He acknowledged that Romo’s “defensive skills at this point are ahead of his offense -- very polished for a high school kid.”

The Rockies believe there is an offensive player in Romo, too.

“We like his swing. We like what he brings at the plate and not just behind it,” Bridich said. “There’s going to be a lot of development for him in all areas. The leap from high school ball to professional baseball, you never know exactly how it’s gong to go. But from all the conversations we’ve had with all of the people that interacted with him, we feel as though this kid is extremely well-equipped to make this leap and excel.”