After a few relatively close races of at least three prospects, we were down to a two-man race here as we get into the bottom half of the top ten. These two had been right there in each of the last two races as well, and they didn’t welcome in any new challengers for this round of voting either. In the end, the winner was the pitcher who is younger and has more upside, albeit more questions as well. That would be Jay Groome, who comes in as our number six prospect in the system after getting 58 percent of the vote.
It seems like Groome, entering his age-21 season, should be older than he is. He’s been around for a while now, having entered the organization in the summer of 2016. Heading into that draft season, Groome was looked at as a potential candidate for the number one overall pick. As the spring moved along, however, makeup and signability concerns started moving him further and further down the draft board. Suddenly, it wasn’t even a sure thing that he’d go in the top ten. Enter: The Red Sox, who were picking at number 12 overall after a tough 2015 season. Groome fell to them, and they decided to take a chance on that potential. He’d sign an overslot deal, and now it was up to the team to hopefully develop a starting pitcher, which is not exactly this group’s forte.
As one would expect, the Red Sox didn’t really work the southpaw in his first professional season. Groome tossed only six innings in three starts in that summer of 2016, allowing a couple runs on three hits, four walks and ten strikeouts. The excitement was building for 2017, but that would quickly dissipate. Groome has battled injuries his entire pro career, and that started in his very first start of 2017. He suffered an intercostal strain in that first start, and he was out until June. He also ended up having to deal with some personal issues — his father was arrested on weapon charges — later that summer, making 2017 something close to a lost year developmentally. He ended up making only 14 starts and pitching to a 6.18 ERA.
He was still extremely young, though, and the excitement was still there heading into the 2018 season. With a tough 2017 behind and another year of wisdom under his wings, this was to be the year. Except, well, things went sideways quickly. Early in spring training he was shut down from throwing due to an arm injury. He tried a couple months of rehab, but eventually had to undergo Tommy John surgery. This would keep him out until late last summer. Groome would make his return to the mound in August, tossing four innings over three starts.
So, here we are four years after he was drafted and we still haven’t really seen a whole lot of Groome. Despite that, there is still excitement because the scouting reports are still good. He still has his starter’s frame and he still has the exciting stuff including a good fastball — though the velocity needs to build back up — as well as a good curveball. The changeup needs some work, but there’s still a real chance at three average pitches including at least one above-average to plus. The command can be good, but again he needs to get the work in to really refine it. He’s also still only 21 and doesn’t turn 22 until the last month of the current minor-league season. Groome still has a chance to be that top pitcher developed in a system that hasn’t seen one in a long time, but eventually he needs to stay on the mound.
While Groome first pitched in Greenville in 2017, expect him to start the year back there in 2020. The Red Sox need Groome to be as good as he can be and have little incentive to rush him too much. If he pitches well over the first couple months of the year a promotion to Salem is certainly in the cards with an eye at starting 2021 in Portland, but they aren’t — and shouldn’t — going to put the cart before the horse. Groome has the pedigree, but he can’t get by just on that anymore.
Here’s our list so far:
Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number two. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. Until next time...