clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

One Big Question: Can Jay Groome get his timeline back on track?

He’s missed so much time, and yet he’s still only 22.

Jay Groome
Kelly O’Connor

Welcome to the annual Over The Monster One Big Question season preview series. Over the next 40(ish) days, we will be running through every player on the 40-man roster and identifying a key question for them pertaining to the coming season. This should run us up to the start of the season, at least as it is scheduled now. We will go through the roster in alphabetical order. For the most part, these will run Monday through Friday every week running up to the week before Opening Day, though expect some weekend posts mixed in as well as the 40-man is expected to continue to be altered before the start of the season. You can catch up with every post by following this link. Today we take a look at Jay Groome.

The Question: Can Jay Groome get his developmental timeline back on track?

The 2020 season was a disaster for the Red Sox, and really for baseball as a whole. It wasn’t wholly MLB’s fault, of course, because COVID was ravaging everything around the world, but it never really felt like the league got their feet under them, though admittedly my perspective as a Red Sox fan may differ from that of, say, a Dodgers fan. But for the minors in particular it was a brutal year with those seasons being cancelled. As such, unless you were invited to the Alternate Site you didn’t get to participate in activities with the organization until Instructs in the fall. It’s pretty much impossible to find a definitive answer as to who was most affected by the lack of minor-league baseball in terms of Red Sox prospects. Everyone in a room could have a different answer and be able to make a convincing case. But if I were to pick one player in particular, Jay Groome would at the very least be near the top of my list, if not at it.

The hope for Groome last season was the same that we have this season, and the same to which that question above alludes. We all wanted to see the former first round pick get his developmental timeline back on track. The history is fairly well known at this point. Groome has been in the organization since the summer of 2016 but has a grand total of 66 professional innings under his belt. In 2017, he missed a couple of months with an intercostal strain. Then, he never got going in 2018, eventually undergoing Tommy John surgery a bit after the season got underway. He missed that entire season and was only able to return for a handful of starts at the end of the 2019 campaign. He’d also miss all of 2020, though obviously that one had nothing to do with him specifically. Everyone in the minors missed 2020.

Yet despite all of that, Groome is still young. It seems like he’s been in the organization for ever, and in a way he has been, but he’s still only entering his age-22 season. For a little bit of context, that is the same age as fellow pitching prospect Shane Drohan, who was just drafted by the Red Sox last summer. So while Groome has missed some developmental time which puts him in a different place than recent college draftees like Drohan, he is also not exactly at an age at which it is just time to give up.

In fact, he is at an age that is frankly fairly appropriate for his likely placement in the High-A rotation down in Greenville. According to Baseball America, back in 2019 the average age for Low-A was 22 years old, so Groome should actually be a bit younger than average to start the coming season at High-A, even with all of the developmental time. Granted, those average ages aren’t totally indicative of where a prospect should be since they include organizational-type veterans who skew the ages a bit, but the point is Groome is still on a proper timeline thinking only about age.

And despite all of the issues, Groome still holds some excitement with fans and those in the organization. If you still hold on to his ceiling from his younger days, he has the highest ceiling in the entire system among pitching prospects. Remember, in his draft year back in 2016 he was seen as a potential number one overall pick at points in the spring. That projection came down as the draft grew closer, but it never really had anything to do with his talent. He was always seen as a potential ace if he was able to put it together.

Now, that specific ceiling has changed of course. Groome hasn’t pitched nearly enough to put that kind of label on him, and there have been some wild inconsistencies when he has been able to pitch. There have been times as recently as spring in 2020 when he flashed the kind of stuff that made believers out of scouts in the first place. On the other hand, there have been times, including this past fall at Instructs, where he didn’t appear to be in top physical shape and his stuff suffered.

Despite the point made above regarding Groome’s age, the fact is he has still been in the organization long enough that he was eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this past winter, and given the ceiling the Red Sox had to protect him and place him on the 40-man roster. The result is a bit of a rock and a hard place situation. They want to give Groome the proper time to develop, but they also are now burning options with every year he can’t get up to the majors. It won’t happen this year, but if he pitches well there could be some temptation to push him up with an eye on a debut at some point in 2022 despite that being a bit of a rush.

That, however, is putting the cart way before the horse. Right now, it’s just about getting Groome on a proper developmental timeline, and more generally having him be able to actually take the mound on a regular basis, something that has yet to happen in his career. If he comes in in shape this year and ready to go, things could be promising. He’ll be a 22-year-old in High-A, exactly where he should be.

Missing 2020 hurt everybody, but for somebody like Groome who simply has not been able to throw since being drafted, it was a brutal blow. Now, he is one of the most fascinating players on the 40-man, despite having no shot at actually making it up to the majors in the coming summer. And realistically he won’t be here until 2023. Right now, it’s not about getting him to Boston. It’s about getting him consistent starts at an appropriate level and back on track to make the most of that potential so many saw five years ago.