Featured image courtesy of 98.5 the Sports Hub
The road to the majors has not been a kind one for Boston Red Sox pitching prospect Jay Groome. The 12th overall pick in the 2016 Amateur Draft has perhaps the highest ceiling of any player left in the Red Sox farm system. However, despite his otherworldly talent, Groome hasn’t thrown a pitch since the 2017 season. The hard-throwing lefty underwent Tommy John surgery and is expected to return to the field sometime in 2019, but he won’t be ready for the beginning of the minor league season. What does the future hold for the young lefty, and what makes his so good, to begin with?
Red Sox Prospects: Jay Groome
Based on pure stuff alone, there aren’t many better prospects than Jay Groome. Back in 2016, the lefty was rumored to be in the running to go first overall, but character concerns along with him possibly going to college allowed him to fall all the way to the 12th overall pick. On paper, this pick was a steal, and it still has the potential to be a great decision.
Groome currently throws a fastball, changeup, and curveball, all of which have the potential to be borderline elite major league offerings. While his fastball doesn’t have elite velocity, it has impeccable movement which makes it almost impossible to pick up. His curveball drops off the table right as it approaches the plate, and his changeup is a decent offering he throws on occasion.
The most impressive thing about Groome is how much swing-and-miss potential he has. While his minor league track record hasn’t been perfect, he’s still managed to strike out 82 batters in his 62 innings pitched. While Groome struggled in 2017 (6.70 ERA, 4.56 FIP), he appeared to put those struggles behind him early in 2018. After spending the winter working with Chris Sale, Groome had a fantastic spring training, showing all the elite pitching tools which made him such a coveted prospect, to begin with. Of course, his UCL gave out during that very spring training, sidelining him until at least mid-2019. While it’s frustrating to watch a talented pitcher like Groome undergo this type of injury, there’s no denying the lefty left off on a high note.
What Needs to Improve
With such a limited sample size, it’s hard to say what Groome needs to fix once he’s on the mound. Based on his 2018 spring training, when he’s healthy he has a fantastic pitch tool and pretty solid command. At this point in his career, the biggest issue for him is staying healthy.
While the Tommy John surgery is obviously the biggest reason for the health concern, it’s not Groome’s only battle with injury. Back in 2017, Groome suffered a muscle strain in his first start of the season, and then had his season end with a mild forearm strain. Ultimately, the injuries held Groome to just 55.1 innings pitched in 2017.
If Groome can stay healthy, he has an unmatched ceiling in the Red Sox farm system. While his early injuries are concerning, it’s worth noting that the star pitcher is just 20-years old right now. He’s still at the age where, as he gets older, his body will continue to get stronger.
Additionally, Tommy John surgery isn’t the kiss of death it once was. Postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi underwent two Tommy John surgeries prior to joining the Red Sox, and he was hitting 103 on the radar gun. Even with missing over a year with the injury, Groome will still be 21 when he returns, likely to Single-A ball. Assuming he still has his complete pitch tool, he should fly through the minor leagues. While he won’t get close to the majors in 2019, he could very well be a September call-up in 2020. At the very least, he should be on the 40-man roster by 2021.