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March 8, 2022 at 8:00 AM

Scouting Report Updates: Jay Groome, Brandon Walter, Chase Shugart and Dylan Spacke

For the last few months, we've been updating the scouting reports of many players in the system. Over the next few weeks, we will highlight these updated reports. Today's update focuses on four starting pitchers from last years Greenville Drive, headlined by left-handed pitchers Jay Groome and Brandon Walter. These scouting reports are written by Director of Scouting Ian Cundall.

Physical Description: Very large pitcher's frame. Wide, mature upper body and filled-out lower half. Looks all of his listed height and weight. Below-average athlete. Height is imposing on the mound. Body will need maintenance and bears watching as he matures; has had problems maintaining his conditioning. How his body develops will depend on how much work he puts in off the field.

Mechanics: Throws from a three-quarters arm slot. Starts on the first base side from the wind-up. Medium-effort delivery. Utilizes a high leg lift and is upright and stiff. Arm action includes a stab behind. Hides the ball briefly when he brings it behind his back and then again behind his head as he comes forward. Delivery is inconsistent and has gotten stiffer as his athleticism and coordination have regressed. Has trouble getting his arm in sync with the rest of his delivery. Has a tendency to open up his front side early while his arm lags behind and comes through late. When arm is out ahead, will miss up to the glove side; when it drags behind, tends to miss arm-side.

Fastball: Sits 90-92 mph. Tops out at 94 mph. Will come out at 92-94 mph, but settles in after an inning or two at 90-92. Prior to his elbow injury, would sit 92-94 mph and could dial it up to the 94-96 mph range. Since returning from Tommy John surgery, has yet to consistently show that velocity. At its best, the pitch gets on hitters quickly and has life. Still needs to show the ability to hold velocity deeper into games. Even at diminished velocity, pitch has shown swing-and-miss potential when commanded. Potential to develop into an average offering with refined command.

Curveball: 78-80 mph. 1-to-7 shape. At its best, shows depth and late finish. Feel comes and goes. When he has it working, can either throw in the zone or bury down and out of the zone to induce swinging strikes. At its best pre-surgery, it showed plus potential, but feel and consistency have not returned. Now projects as an average-to-better offering.

Changeup: 79-82 mph. Throws with deceptive arm speed the majority of the time. Shows late drop. Has shown the ability to pull the string on it and serves as an effective pitch against righties, to whom he almost exclusively throws it. Has improved and now shows as much or more potential than curveball. Did not throw much in high school or in 2016. Began to incorporate it more in 2017 as a work-in-progress as he tried to develop feel. Since return from surgery, pitch has steadily improved and he has shown more feel for it. Potential average-to-better offering.

Slider: 82-87 mph. Short, horizontal movement. Has become more comfortable with it during the 2021 season. Inconsistent shape and feel. Has shown a willingness to throw it to both right- and left-handed hitters. First threw the pitch at 2020 Fall Instructional League; pitch has come a long way since then but is still a work in progress. Potential fringe-average offering.

Career Notes: Was ranked by some outlets as the top talent in the 2016 draft class, but fell due to signability and makeup concerns. Transferred to IMG Academy in Florida for his junior season but returned to Barnegat High in New Jersey as a senior. Was later retroactively suspended for an improper transfer, causing his team to forfeit two games. Committed to Vanderbilt initially, but commitment changed to Chipola (Fla.) Junior College the week of the draft. Conflicting reports said either Vanderbilt pulled his offer or Groome recommitted to potentially allow him to re-enter the draft in 2017; with SoxProspects sources unanimously confirming the former. Reportedly agreed to a pre-draft deal with the San Diego Padres at picks 24 and 25, but Red Sox selected him anyway and signed him for $457,200 over slot. Entered 2017 as a consensus top 50 prospect. Red Sox were reportedly unhappy with his conditioning entering 2017 Spring Training. Suffered an intercostal strain during his first start of the 2017 season, causing him to miss two months, then was shut down in mid-August 2017 with forearm soreness. Worked out with Chris Sale in Ft. Myers during the 2017-18 offseason. Entered 2018 as a top 100 prospect. Was injured in first spring training start in 2018, leading to May 2018 Tommy John surgery. Returned in August 2019 with a slimmed-down physique, although he had visibly filled back out in 2020. Pitched at the Alternate Training Site in 2020 against much older hitters. Participated in 2016 and 2020 Fall Instructional League. Was added to the 40-man roster during the 2020-21 offseason to protect him from selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Missed three weeks in July 2021 for birth of his daughter, a break seemingly at least in part planned to keep his innings down in the first full, healthy season of his career.

Summation: Potential fringe back-end starter, but injury risk and missed development time complicate that projection. Ceiling of a number four or five starter. Stuff still is not completely back more than two years after surgery. Arsenal now includes four pitches that he is comfortable using, all in the 45-55 range. Lacks a potential plus pitch. Now a sum-of-all-parts pitcher who will need to be able to command all his offerings and mix them to be effective. Conditioning will always be a question and still has injury question marks, but healthy 2021 has been a positive development.

Brandon Walter, Left-handed pitcher
Physical Description: Left-hander with a medium frame. Not much projection remaining. Looks listed height and weight.

Mechanics: Throws from a low three-quarters arm slot. Atypical delivery with effort, but it works for him and he repeats it well. Starts angled toward first-base dugout on the middle of the mound, hands by his face before sliding toward third base during wind-up. Swings arm behind with medium leg kick before coming forward. Short arm action with a hook behind. Hides the ball well before delivery. Will spin and recoil on follow through.

Fastball: 92-94 mph, tops out at 95 mph. Pitch shows two-seam movement with arm-side run. Slightly below-average spin rate. Command needs work, especially to the glove side. Ability to miss bats is dependent on command as it is not an overpowering pitch. Designed to elicit weak contact primarily, though has shown the ability to dial it up at times. Velocity jumped in 2021 from the low-90s. Potential above-average offering.

Changeup: 82-85 mph. Advanced feel and confidence in pitch. Will throw in any count to hitters on both sides. Throws with the same arm speed as his fastball. Pitch drops off the table late. Really can pull the string on it and elicit lots of swinging strikes. Very high spin rate for a changeup. Command can be spotty at times and will leave up in the zone on occasion. Potential above-average-to-plus offering.

Slider: 80-83 mph. Slurvy, long, two-plane break. 2-to-8 shape. Average spin rate with more horizontal movement than vertical. Feel comes and goes during outings, but has shown the ability to land it for strikes. Tough pitch for left-handed hitters to read as it starts right at their body before breaking across the plate. Needs to get more consistent finishing the pitch, as sometimes it will come in loose and hang. Potential average offering.

Career Notes: Had Tommy John surgery in 2017, missing most of that season and all of the 2018 season. Late-round senior sign in 2019. Broke out from seemingly out of nowhere in 2021, beginning the year in the Low-A bullpen very old for the level before working his way into the rotation and, later, a mid-season promotion, putting up outstanding numbers throughout. Participated in 2022 Winter Warm-Up.

Summation: Potential major league swingman. Ceiling of a back-end starter. Will show a starter's arsenal with three average-or-better pitches and the ability to turn over a lineup, but does not have a typical starter's delivery. Command and control need refinement, as does consistency with secondary pitches. Can project as a starter or reliever depending on the day you see him. Has some traits that would push him to each potential outcome, but has the makings of a major league-caliber arm either way. If pushed to the bullpen, combination of stuff and handedness gives him a decent floor. Breakout prospect for whom scouts are still getting a feel.

Physical Description: Short, average frame. Very athletic, quick feet. Minimal remaining projection.

Mechanics: Throws from a high three-quarters arm slot from the third base side of the rubber. Simple mechanics. Compact delivery with little wasted motion. High leg kick with no runners on base, but with runners on, he streamlines that part of his delivery with an abbreviated leg kick. Very quick arm. Has some effort in delivery.

Fastball: 93-95 mph. Tops out at 97 mph. Pitch lacks plane and straightens out up in the zone. Below-average life and does not miss as many bats as you would expect given the velocity. Has shown the ability to hit 97 mph after five innings of work when he reaches back. Velocity could play up even more in short bursts. Command and control need refinement. Below-average command at present. Potential above-average pitch with refined command.

Curveball: 74-80 mph. 11-to-5 shape. Has feel and confidence in the pitch. Willing to throw in any count to both right- and left-handed hitters. Shows tight rotation and depth when he snaps it off. Will take something off it and throw it in the 74-76 mph range at times, but pitch is best in the high-80s. Potential above-average offering.

Slider: 81-84 mph. Short, tight, 10-to-4 break. Pitch is more horizontal than his curveball, but shows bite. Potential fringe-average offering.

Changeup: 84-87 mph. Inconsistent movement. Firm, looks like a fastball that he took something off at times. Will show drop on occasion. Clear fourth pitch, only uses as a change of pace offering. Limited bat-missing ability. Below-average potential.

Career Notes: Undrafted out of high school. Pitched out of the Texas bullpen during his first two college seasons. Moved to the rotation during his junior season. Stuff unexpectedly ticked way up after signing in 2018, likely surprising even the organization, but only pitched in short stints after increased spring workload and Texas' run to the College World Series. Suspended for 50 games at outset of 2019 season for a second failed drug test. Participated in Fall Instructional League in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Underwent a procedure on his knee in roughly May 2020. Did not miss time due to the canceled season, although he did not pitch at Fall Instructs as a result. Participated in 2022 Winter Warm-Up.

Summation: Potential up-and-down multi-inning reliever. Ceiling of a middle reliever. Fastball and curveball show the most potential in arsenal. Size and command profile are better suited to a bullpen role. Very athletic and repeats delivery well. Has four pitches, but only two project for now as anything more than show-me pitches against more advanced hitters. On the older side, could move quicker if transitioned into a bullpen role.

Physical Description: Average-framed right-hander with minimal remaining projection.

Mechanics: Throws from a low-three-quarters arm slot. Compact delivery with effort. Low leg kick. Stays balanced. Drop and drive with elbows high in delivery.

Fastball: 91-93 mph. Tops out at 95 mph. Heavy pitch with late sink. Tends to throw down in the zone, looking for groundballs. Potential average pitch.

Changeup: 81-83 mph. Primary secondary offering. Has good separation from his fastball. Pitch shows late fade. Potential average offering.

Slider: 77-79 mph. Horizontal, frisbee breaking ball. Lacks depth, throws often. Inconsistent, sometimes will roll to the plate. Potential fringe-average offering.

Career Notes: Participated in Fall Instructional League in 2019 and 2020.

Summation: Potential solid organizational reliever. Ceiling of an emergency up-and-down reliever. Throws strikes and projects for an average fastball/changeup combination. Keeps the ball down and generates a lot of groundballs. Delivery is off-putting, especially against right-handed hitters.

Photo Credit: Jay Groome and Chase Shugart by Kelly O'Connor, Brandon Walter by Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive.

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