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November 19, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Scout Chatter: Jay Groome, Eduard Bazardo and more from Fall Instructs

The Red Sox recently wrapped up their Fall Instructional League program, which was slated to run from October 5 through November 12 but ended a few days early due to Hurricane Eta. The Red Sox still were able to get in plenty of work for their top farmhands, including a pair of games against Tampa Bay’s minor leaguers. Otherwise, the camp consisted of morning workouts followed by an intrasquad scrimmage that varied in length depending on how many pitchers needed work. The scrimmages had umpires and were treated like a normal game, save that innings could end early when pitchers hit their pitch count or get extended if they got through an inning too quickly. 

This will be the first of several articles based on reports we received from Instructs. The data we’ve collected will be up on the News Page for your reading pleasure before we use it to update player page scouting reports, so forgive any inconsistencies until that point. 

Today, we focus primarily on players eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft, given that Friday, Nov. 20, is the deadline for teams to protect players from selection by adding them to the 40-man roster.

- While the camp roster included 62 players, our reports indicated that 13 players did not participate in game action. The list includes right-handers Bryan Mata, Thad Ward, Ryan Zeferjahn, Jacob Wallace, Chase Shugart, Kutter Crawford and Jacinto Arredondo, left-hander Jorge Rodriguez, catchers Connor Wong, Kole Cottam and Alex Erro, and infielders Hudson Potts and Pedro Castellanos. Of this group, Mata, Crawford (who is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery), Potts, Wong, and Castellanos are Rule 5 eligible. We project that Mata, Potts, and Wong will be protected from this group.

- Right-handed reliever Eduard Bazardo was the most impressive arm at Instructs, showing off increased velocity that puts him squarely in the mix to either be added to the 40-man roster on Friday or selected in the Rule 5 draft. I saw Bazardo in 2019 and he pitched in the 91-95 mph range with an above-average curveball with an elite spin rate. At Instructs, all of Bazardo’s stuff was improved, as he sat 93-97 mph and often pitched at 95-96 with, as one scout called it, a “silly” curveball. His curveball elicited some horrible swings, and its spin rate topped  3000 rpm, which is elite. His fastball is now a plus-to-better pitch, and his curveball is solidly a plus pitch as well. His control has always been good, but he showed improved command of both his fastball and curveball. Bazardo also mixed in an occasional fringy splitter, which gave hitters something else to think about and another pitch in a different velocity band to keep them honest. Bazardo has a solid middle relief projection now and likely will have to be protected if the Red Sox want to keep him in the organization next year. I now project the Red Sox to add him to the 40-man to do just that. Given the uncertainty in the Red Sox bullpen and his proximity to the major leagues, I think he has a shot to make his major league debut in 2021. 

- Coming off a solid showing at the Alternate Training Site (ATS), I had high hopes for left-hander Jay Groome, but unfortunately, he was not very impressive at Instructs. The first issue is a physical one. Groome has always had a large, soft frame that he would need to watch going forward, and the organization was reportedly unhappy with his conditioning when he reported to camp in 2017. He had worked hard on his conditioning since, working out with Chris Sale over the 2017-18 offseason, and then returning in 2019 from rehabbing his elbow after his 2018 Tommy John surgery in tremendous shape, looking like a different person. However, he looked a bit softer during the ATS, and he has regressed back into having a stockier frame and has filled out some. As a result, his delivery has gotten somewhat stiff, and the lack of athleticism makes it more difficult for him to repeat his delivery and keep his body in sync. 

Groome’s velocity was down considerably, with the fastball ranging from 88-94 mph and mostly sitting around 90-91 mph. In the past, Groome has sat 92-94 mph and would touch 96 mph. With this drop in velocity, his fastball grades closer to average than plus. Groome’s curveball also has yet to return to where it was pre-injury. The pitch was slightly slower, at 76-79 mph, and lacked the crispness and depth it showed in the past. The pitch still will flash above-average with slurvy shape and some depth, but it is still far from being the weapon that showed plus to plus-plus potential it once was. 

Groome threw his changeup at 80-83 mph and a slider he debuted at 82-85 mph, though neither is a difference maker and both grade out as potential fringe-average offerings. The new slider showed short, horizontal shape, but it was inconsistent and he struggled to miss bats with it. His changeup did flash a little more potential, but as with his slider, he struggled to miss bats with it and it was more something to keep right-handed hitters off-balance. Although the reports on Groome were not encouraging he is still a difficult player to project due to how little he has thrown since signing. In this look, he seemed like more of a potential depth starter with an averageish four-pitch mix, but the ingredients are still there for more if he can find his velocity and breaking ball and refocus on his conditioning. 

- 21-year-old outfielder Jeisson Rosario got off to a solid start, but as camp went on, he started to struggle. Rosario did not show a stand-out tool and did not seem like a potential difference maker. His frame is not that projectable. His best tools were on defense, where his instincts stood out and he showed an above-average arm. His run times, however, were closer to average than plus, which is a concern—if his speed continues to decrease, it could limit his defensive upside. At the plate, Rosario’s approach was ok—he worked counts but did not seem to be seeing the ball that well and showed fringy contact ability and minimal raw power. The Instructs games were not the ideal showcase for Rosario—he lacks loud tools, but as one of the more advanced players there, scouts expected more out of him against inexperienced pitching. He still likely will be added to the 40-man roster on Friday, as his talent is too intriguing to leave unprotected in Rule 5, but I do not think it is as much of a certainty as I did when the Red Sox acquired him this summer.  

- Catcher Roldani Baldwin, who signed in 2013, is one of the longest tenured players in the system, but his career has been stalled by injuries. He barely played in 2019 after a shin/ankle fracture, making camp an important chance for him to get some reps.. Baldwin has always had power and showed it off by hitting a long home run in one game, although he has developed an all-or-nothing approach solely focused on driving the ball. He has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, and there are serious questions about his ability to hit more advanced pitching. Defensively, he played both catcher and first base, and while he is very fringy behind the plate, he did show off an improved arm with multiple plus pop times around 1.95 seconds to second base, a step up from what I saw from him in September 2019, when he was  in the 2.05 to 2.07 range.  

- Alan Marrero was the best defensive catcher at Instructs, but that is really all he does. All of Marrero’s defensive tools grade out at least at average, with his arm grading higher than that. He has a very quick release and showed off a very accurate arm. At the plate, Marrero showed average raw power, but he is unlikely to be able to tap into that because he struggles to make contact and lacks bat speed. Though he does not have a high ceiling, Marrero should stick around for a while, as he has the skill set you look for in a solid, defense-first, organizational catcher. 

- Jake Thompson underwent Tommy John surgery in early 2019 and was back on the mound this fall. Thompson’s velocity was back, as he sat 92-95 mph and his slider came in at 83-85 mph. His splitter was not good, which is concerning because that was his best secondary pitch pre-surgery. Thompson’s delivery is still very rough and his arm action is extremely stressful, so he looks to have continued injury risk going forward. 

Photo Credit: Eduard Bazardo, Jay Groome and Jeisson Rosario by Kelly O'Connor.

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