If you’ve followed our draft coverage before, you know an annual tradition is to try to figure out where the first pick in the Red Sox draft ranks within the system. All the draft analysis seeks to compare prospects within the draft to each other, but that doesn’t necessarily tell you where a player will rank within the organization they’re now a part of.
Sure, Jason Groome was a consensus top-five talent in 2016’s draft class, but what does that mean for his placement in the Red Sox own prospect rankings? The tall high school lefty isn’t actually with the Sox yet, as he has to agree to a deal before that can be said, but don’t let a little thing like that stop this thought exercise.
We asked Christopher Crawford of Baseball Prospectus for a hand in contextualizing Boston’s newest top prospect, as well as MLB.com’s Jim Callis and FanGraphs’ new lead prospect writer, Eric Longenhagen. I’d like to take a moment to thank all three for responding to us at a time when they probably should have been sleeping in between draft picks.
Christopher Crawford, Baseball Prospectus
Jason Groome was the top player on my board, and Boston fans should be thrilled he fell to them with the 12th pick. When everything is firing, he'll show two plus-plus pitches in his fastball and curve, and he also shows a solid-average change just for good measure. There are some non-baseball things that make some worry, but at this point, he's worth the risk.
The southpaw’s stuff is far more advanced than either Trey Ball or Henry Owens, two recent high-profile lefties taken in the first round by the Sox. They were projection picks -- guys you were hoping would fill out and start to show better stuff (and Owens did, until he didn't). In Groome, you're looking at a guy who probably isn't up in the majors until 2019, but he's a much better prospect than either Ball or Owens was.
He's certainly in the top five in the Red Sox system, and he might just belong in the top three. He’s certainly not ahead of Yoan Moncada, and for me not Anderson Espinoza, either. But maybe he’s ahead of Rafael Devers. And maybe even ahead of Andrew Benintendi, too.
Jim Callis, MLB.com
I'd rank Groome fifth in the Red Sox system behind Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, and Anderson Espinoza. That's a reflection of how stacked Boston's system is at the top, because Groome would rank higher in a lot of other systems.
The fastball/curveball combination, the body, the delivery -- it's all good. There are makeup concerns, but without those makeup concerns he doesn't come close to lasting until the 12th pick.
Eric Longenhagen, FanGraphs
Rafael Devers, Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi are 1, 2, and 3 in whatever order you want to put them. Then you get to comparing Jason Groome and Anderson Espinoza, and things get hard.
Espinoza has better present velocity, and yes, he's small, and you could argue there's some risk that the body won't allow him to maintain it -- especially because we haven't seen him do it over a ton of innings yet. But Espinoza does it so easily that I think he has a better chance of maintaining velocity than most small pitchers with big time arm acceleration. Most high school pitchers with physical projection, you hope they're just projectable enough to counterbalance a pro workload and maintain their high school fastballs. Groome has an ideal pitcher's frame and is probably going to grow into even more velocity than he already has. I think, in the end, their fastballs will be a wash as far as pure stuff is concerned, but Groome might have better command of it.
Their curveballs are comparable right now, but Groome's has better projection. Espinoza's arm is so fast and he's so athletic that I think he has a better chance of developing a dominant changeup to compliment his breaking ball and velocity.
Separating those two is like splitting hairs and it's made harder because they're so different.
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And there’s your context. Groome isn’t the best prospect in the Red Sox organization, but that speaks more to the prospects already on the farm than it does Groome. He rounds out a ridiculous top-five for the Red Sox, one that this spring was rounded out by Michael Kopech — Kopech is a good prospect, one with a bright future, but he’s also still kind of a borderline top-100 guy. Groome, on the other hand, is getting some love from experts as maybe a top-three prospect in this system, which would mean he’s likely going to sit in a much better position on a future top-100 than Kopech has or will.
So, if you’re keeping track at home, the Red Sox top-10 probably looks something like this if you assume Groome is going to sign:
- Yoan Moncada
- Andrew Benintendi
- Anderson Espinoza
- Rafael Devers
- Jason Groome
- Sam Travis
- Michael Kopech
- Brian Johnson
- Michael Chavis
- Luis Alexander Basabe
You could quibble and throw Marco Hernandez or Travis Lakins or Mauricio Dubon on the back-end instead of Chavis or Basabe, but regardless of the who, it’s looking like the Sox have managed to recover some of that depth that was supposedly lost over the winter post-Craig Kimbrel trade. Groome is a key part of that.