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September 8, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Scouting Scratch: Jason Groome

NORWICH, Conn. -- After two appearances in the Gulf Coast League, Red Sox 2016 first-round pick Jason Groome was promoted to Lowell and made his New York-Penn League debut last Friday, September 2, on the road against the Connecticut Tigers. Groome was regarded as one of the top prospects in the 2016 draft class, but fell all the way to the 12th pick, where the Red Sox selected him and then signed him on July 15 for a $3.65-million bonus, just over $450,000 over slot.

Groome threw two innings in each of his two appearances in the GCL, but lasted two and two-thirds in his Lowell debut. He did not allow any hits and struck out two, but did walk four and was charged with a run when an inherited runner scored. Overall, Groome threw 56 pitches, half for strikes, and while his control came and went at times, it was still a very encouraging first look.

Before the game, Groome was playing long toss while the rest of the Lowell team warmed up around him. At that time it was clear how much he stands out on the field. Even though he had only just turned 18 years old, Groome’s frame was unmatched among the Lowell players, even next to Bobby Dalbec, who is 21 and listed at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. Groome is listed at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, and he has a strong, ideal pitcher’s frame. If not for his baby face, you would assume Groome was in his early 20s given his combination of size and physical development, especially in his lower half. He has a durable frame and looks like someone who could one day throw 200 innings a year. Because of his youth, he could still grow, and he does have some projection remaining—mainly in his upper body—as he matures.

When Groome takes the mound, his height is imposing, but he is a good athlete. His delivery is low-effort, his arm action free and easy. Groome throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a very controlled, repeatable delivery. He starts with his feet close together and slightly pointed towards the on-deck circle on the first-base side. He utilizes a high leg lift and gets extension over his front side. His arm action is clean and he hides the ball briefly when he brings it behind his back and then again behind his head as he comes forward. Because of his size and the extension he gets, the ball gets on the hitter quickly.

Groome does need to work on his command and control, although that could be said of most pitchers his age. He only threw four first-pitch strikes in fourteen hitters faced, and walked four. Those figures are somewhat misleading, as two of the walks came on 3-2 pitches, one of which was borderline. The other two walks came on 3-1 pitches, and one of those also was a very close pitch.

Groome had some trouble getting his arm in sync with the rest of his delivery, and that was the driving force behind the walks. At times, his arm was out ahead and he was missing glove-side and up; other times it was dragging behind so he would cut it off and miss arm-side. Given his long levers that will happen at times, though because of the easiness and repeatability of his delivery he does have a strong command profile long term. When in sync, however, he was able to keep the ball down and out of the middle of the plate, mainly working along the edges of the strike zone.

Groome’s fastball worked 89-93 mph, touching 94 mph once in the first inning. Because of his size and ease of his delivery, he generates easy velocity. The pitch has life and jumps on the hitters, especially left-handers. He got three swing-and-misses against the pitch, two against left-handed hitters. Two of those swing and misses are in the video above. He got one strikeout with the pitch, locating it arm-side and down against a right-hander for a called third strike. The pitch showed some arm-side run, especially in the lower velocity range when he finished it and kept it down. He primarily worked in the 91-93 mph range for the first inning, but after that was more 89-91 mph, touching 92 a few times in his third inning of work. Given his delivery and size, as well as past reports of his velocity reaching higher than what I saw in this outing, I project him to potentially show more velocity in future outings, especially when he is fresh. With refinement, his fastball has plus-to-better potential. It will be tough for hitters to square up and should miss bats at the highest level.

Of his two secondary pitches, reportedly a curveball and changeup, Groome mainly featured his curveball during this outing. It was one of the more advanced secondary pitches I have seen from someone his age. Groome throws the pitch 75-79 mph, but it was at its best in the 76-78 mph range. It is clear he has confidence and advanced feel for the pitch, showing a willingness to throw it in any count. He really snaps it off well with tight rotation and depth when he finished it. He did not do so consistently, however, as a few rolled more to the plate, but at its best it flashed plus. He seemed to really find the pitch his final inning of work, when he snapped off a few of his best ones. He got a strikeout with the pitch in that inning, locating one down and away from a left-handed hitter for a swinging strike on a pitch that started at the hitter’s front shoulder but ended up all the way across the plate at his knees. The pitch looks like it will be especially effective against left-handers, inducing some very uncomfortable swings from them and two swing-and-misses. Because of the combination of shape, feel and ability to command the pitch, it looks like it could develop into an easy plus offering. As for the changeup, a pitch he has reportedly used sparingly in high school, Groome only threw one in this outing at 78 mph.

Overall, this was an impressive first look at Groome, even though his stat line may not reflect that. He only just turned 18 and showed solid poise on the mound while facing hitters four or even five years his senior, many from big-time college programs. His ability to bear down with runners on base was also impressive, especially in his second inning of work when a bad error by Dalbec put two runners on with two outs and the top of the order coming up. Groome has a long way to go developmentally, but the upside is clearly there. He will likely head to Greenville to start next year, playing most of the year at 18, and that should provide a good test in his first full pro season.

Photo credit: Jason Groome by perfectgame.org  

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.