The Red Sox have made their first pick of the 2016 MLB draft — and their first pick of the two available to them here on day one. That pick is Jason Groome, a high school lefty out of New Jersey.
They weren’t able to get the player they were tied to the most during the lead-in to the draft, Miami catcher Zack Collins, but not because they chose to go in a different direction. The White Sox took Collins at 10, meaning the Sox had to go to one of their alternative plans.
Don’t take that to mean that no hope exists in Groome, though. He was ranked third on Baseball America’s pre-draft top-500, and Keith Law tweeted that he had Groome second on his board. Law also mentioned that Groome has "one of the best HS curveballs I've ever seen," so you can see why the Sox wouldn't let him slip any further.
There are some mild signability concerns, as Groome was committed to Vanderbilt, but then dropped that commitment to apply to a junior college — that would mean he would be eligible for the draft again next year. He's got leverage on his side, so it would take a serious bonus to reel him in.
It’s entirely possible that he will require more than the $3,192,800 that the 12th-overall pick has allotted to it in slot value, but depending on what other moves the Red Sox make during the first 10 rounds — sign college seniors to bonuses that are a mere fraction of slot value, spend all of that extra five percent above budget on Groome — they can make it work. Plus, it’s unlikely they just drafted Groome without at least contacting him about a relative number, too.
If Boston fails to sign him, they would get a comparable pick in next summer's draft, but would lose the near $3.2 million in draft budget they have attached to the 12th pick this year. The collective bargaining agreement could change this offseason, but it’s unlikely next June’s draft would be treated differently in this regard even if those rules change.
Enough about contracts, though: this is what Groome is capable of, according to Baseball America’s scouting report:
Groome's fastball can reach into the mid-90s, touching as high as 97, and he shows the ability to locate the pitch down and to either side of the plate. As he settles in, Groome usually pitches in the low 90s, sitting at 90-94. His best secondary pitch is a menacing curveball, thrown with upper-70s velocity and plus bite. He'll have to work on staying on top of and behind the pitch more consistently, but it could develop into a plus-plus pitch down the line. Groome also mixes in a changeup, which he's able to spot down in the strike zone. He has a sound delivery with a clean arm, with the strength to repeat his mechanics. Physically, Groome is as gifted as any player in the class. He is also younger than many of his peers, not turning 18 until August.
A high school pitcher is risky, but Groome doesn’t seem like a project like Trey Ball was back in 2013 — Groome seems like someone who is well ahead of the curve for their age, and could develop into a fine player in a shorter time frame. We’ll have to see, obviously, as we do with all of these picks, but the Sox went for talent at 12, and they certainly got it.