We’re right in the thick of prospect season, and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has begun his annual series of ranking the top ten prospects at each position. On Wednesday, he named the best southpaw prospects around the league, and Boston’s first-round pick from last June slotted in second.
This is extremely high praise for Jason Groome, a pitcher who has minimal professional experience but was also arguably the most talented player in last year’s amateur draft. After being linked to a top-five selection for much of the spring, he fell to 12th due to makeup concerns as well as bonus demands. The big lefty — he’s a whopping 6’6”, 220 pounds -- throws his fastball in the low-to-mid-90’s and can get it up to the high 90’s on occasion. And that’s as an 18-year-old. To go along with that, he boasts a curveball that already flashes plus and a changeup that should be at least an average delivery.
After being drafted out of high school last season, Groome didn’t get much of a chance to show off his abilities at the professional level. The lefty made just two starts in the Gulf Coast League and one in Lowell against New York Penn League competition. He tossed two innings in each of his GCL appearances, allowing one run in one of them. Even better, he didn’t walk a single batter while striking out eight batters in those four innings. His start in Lowell was a little rougher, as he allowed one run in 2-2/3 innings on four walks and two strikeouts. Obviously, these really aren’t starts off which we can base a whole lot. Most of our expectations are still based on his scouting reports from before the draft.
Although Groome is incredibly talented, he no doubt benefitted from a watered down group of southpaws in the minors this season. At this time last year, guys like Julio Urias, Blake Snell and Steven Matz were atop the list. All three of them made the majors last year, and look like they’ll have long, productive careers. This year, only Josh Hader of the Brewers was ahead of Groome on the list. He was followed immediately by fellow 2016 draftee Braxton Garrett of the Marlins organization.
This is a nice consolation for fans of Red Sox prospects, as the right-handed list that was published on Tuesday might cause some sore feelings. On that list, Michael Kopech was listed at the fourth-best righty in baseball and Anderson Espinoza was ranked sixth. Beyond the surprise (at least to me) that Kopech was ranked ahead of Espinoza, it stings to know both of them could’ve been in the organization. Of course, then you look at Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz, who I remain higher on than most, and you feel a little better.
The fact that they have another elite arm ready to come up through the system eases that feeling even more. Groome should have an extended chance to show off his talent in 2017, as he’s currently projected to pitch the full season by starting the year in Low-A Greenville.