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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Jay Groome has to take another step forward

He stayed healthy for a year. Now it’s time to perform consistently.

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Jay Groome, September 2021
Kelly O’Connor

It doesn’t really come as much of a surprise, both from knowing how the system is shaping up right now and just knowing the history of how Boston’s farm system has developed, but our community rankings have thus far been dominated by position players. There was a two pitcher run a few spots ago in the middle of the top ten, but beyond that six of our top eight prospects have been on the offensive side of the organization. Well, today we get our third pitcher, who emerged from a tight battle between three arms. That’d be Jay Groome, who comes in as our number nine prospect after snagging 34 percent of the vote.

Groome has been one of the most intriguing, but also frustrating, prospects in the system for quite some time, and while he hasn’t literally been in the organization forever it sure feels like it sometimes. The southpaw was originally drafted back in the 2016 draft, which came as a total surprise at the time. Boston was picking a little higher than they’d typically like with the 12th pick, but Groome was at times that spring seen as a potential number one overall pick and it seemed as though he’d certainly be off the board by the time Boston picked. Instead, Groome fell due to signability and perhaps some makeup concerns, and the Red Sox changed up their draft plan to get the high-upside high school lefty.

Unfortunately, things just never got off the ground for the New Jersey native early on in his professional career. He only made three starts in that first summer after being drafted, though that is not uncommon in a player’s draft year, especially for a pitcher. Instead, it was 2017 when we were waiting for Groome to make his mark in the organization and become the team’s next big prospect. Instead, he reportedly came into camp in less-than-idea shape, and he’d end up with an intercostal strain that would put him on the shelf after just one start. He’d ultimately make 11 starts in Greenville with an ERA approaching 7.00 before another injury, this one a forearm, put him right back on the shelf.

Now, most people who follow baseball know that a forearm injury can often be a precursor to a major elbow injury, but Groome was trying to avoid a major surgery with a good rehab approach over the winter. He worked out with Chris Sale to try and get ready for the season, but as soon as spring training started he got hurt and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery. That would keep him out for the entirety of the 2018 season and he’d make just three rehab appearances in the lower levels at the end of the 2019 season.

The 2020 season was supposed to be the big coming out party for Groome to finally show his potential, but he again came into camp a little heavier after slimming down during his surgery rehab, and as we know the minor-league season would end up wiped out anyway. The following winter the lefty was still placed on the 40-man roster despite his utter lack of innings in his career to that point, as he was still a risk to be taken in the Rule 5 draft.

Now eating up minor-league options and three years removed from Tommy John, the 2021 season was a massive one for Groome. You can only get by on potential for so long, and eventually you need to show you can simply stay on the mound. Finally, he did just that. The lefty did miss some time in the middle of the season for his daughter’s birth, but otherwise was on the mound every time through. That said, the numbers were a little rough in High-A, pitching to a 5.29 ERA over 18 starts, though his strikeout rate was over 30 percent and his FIP was about a run better than his ERA. That was enough for a late-season promotion to Portland, where he pitched to a 2.30 ERA over three starts and 15 23 innings with 26 strikeouts and four walks.

Field of Dreams Day Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

At this point, the scouting report is quite different than what it was back when Groome was first drafted. For one thing, health is now always a concern, both because of conditioning and just the wear and tear he’s already had on his throwing arm. There’s also not the same kind of front-of-the-rotation upside, at least not from anything we’ve seen in recent years. Sox Prospects now describes him as more of a “sum of the parts” kind of pitcher, and it’s hard to argue with that. Groome throws a solid fastball that sits mostly in the low-90s along with a curveball, changeup, and slider, all of which project to be average-ish.

Even with that report sounding a little damning with faint praise, there is still a little hope here. To start with, his current projection of a back-end starter is not the worst outcome in the world. If he can indeed stick in a major-league rotation, that’s something of a win after all the injuries. But on top of that, even after all this time he is still only entering his age-23 season. If he comes into camp in better shape this season and starts to get some of that bite back in his pitches from before the surgery, particularly with his curveball, then there might be some hidden potential once again unlocked.

It feels dangerous to bet on anything going well for Groome at this point in his career, but realistically there is still some hope on which we can hang our hats. The southpaw should start this season back in Portland, and since he’s on the 40-man the team should be looking to get him to the majors perhaps at the end of this season if all goes well, or at least on a path to make it in 2023. He’s finally got a healthy season behind him. Now, it’s time to put together consistent performances every five days.

Here is our list so far:

  1. Triston Casas, 1B
  2. Marcelo Mayer, SS
  3. Nick Yorke, 2B
  4. Jarren Duran, OF
  5. Brayan Bello, RHP
  6. Bryan Mata, RHP
  7. Jeter Downs, 2B/SS
  8. Blaze Jordan, 3B/1B
  9. Jay Groome, LHP

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number 10 prospect. 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. We encourage discussion, of course, but please don’t comment under specific players’ names. Instead, scroll to the bottom to start a new comment thread in order to keep the players at the top of the comment section. Until next time...