Red Sox Prospect Outlook: New-Look Jay Groome Poised For 2022 Breakout?

It could be time for Groome to make a splash

by

March 29

Before the start of the 2022 season, NESN.com is evaluating several noteworthy prospects in the Boston Red Sox organization, using insight and analysis from industry experts to gauge each player’s outlook for the upcoming campaign. Next up: 2016 first-round pick Jay Groome.

Jay Groome is gearing up to make a serious impact in the Red Sox system this season.

Groome, 23, has been putting in the work with the goal of making it to the majors in 2022. The 12th overall selection in the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft hasn’t had the easiest journey throughout his time with the Red Sox, but with all of the woes behind him, it certainly feels this is his time to shine.

The Red Sox have experienced plenty of restructuring in their farm system since Groome was selected, but there’s reason to be optimistic when it comes to the big lefty.

Here’s what you should know about Groome, who can make his biggest impact since being drafted in the upcoming season.

Groome’s story
Groome was viewed by multiple outlets as the top talent heading into the 2016 MLB Draft. He ultimately slid a bit down the board, allowing the Red Sox to select him with their pick at No. 12 overall.

Groome’s journey with the Red Sox hasn’t been without some major roadblocks. The pitcher has dealt with multiple injuries since being drafted, none of which were as costly as his Tommy John surgery in 2018.

His return came in the latter half of 2019, pitching in four innings of minor league baseball. Obviously, with no minor league season in 2020, Groome awaited the 2021 season to really show where he was at. Outside of missing a couple of games due to the birth of his child, 2021 ended up being his healthiest and most telling season yet.

Entering 2022, there might not be a prospect looking to show what they’re made of more than Groome.

Scouting report
Groome had to change up his overall makeup as a pitcher since his surgery.

“Everyone takes Tommy John surgery differently, and his stuff just hasn’t come back at the same level it was before,” Ian Cundall, director of scouting for SoxProspects.com, told NESN.com last week.

It’s well-documented Groome has been through it. Even if he’s not the same guy he was before the surgery, he certainly seems to be figuring out how to make it work, according to Cundall.

“The fastball’s not as crisp,” Cundall said. “The curveball isn’t as good as it once was. But the flip side is he’s developed his changeup more and he’s developed his slider more. I think now he’s just a different pitcher.”

The left-hander leaned on his fastball and curveball heavily when he was first drafted. Groome’s development of a changeup and slider shows an understanding of his arm and gives some hope to his future progression with the majors more in view than ever before.

“You need more than two pitches, and (Groome) was kind of a two-pitch guy before,” Cundall said. “They were two very good pitches, and now he’s got three, four pitches that he can throw for strikes. But it’s just a different type of profile, it’s a different way of pitching and he’s having to learn to make adjustments to that, and I think he did a good job of it last year and it’s just about building on it this year.”

Groome’s three starts for Portland in 2021 gave a glimpse into the type of pitcher he might be moving forward. He finished with a 2.30 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings pitched. A small sample size, but one that shows his ability to get hitters out with his current stuff.

Most-likely outcome: Back-end starter or reliever.

Coming out of the draft, there were high hopes Groome could be a top-of-the-rotation guy, but his injuries have knocked his potential spot in the majors. It’s clear with his dominant one-two punch being weakened and having to average out his arsenal, he’s just not likely to be that top starter anymore.

“I think he’s a guy who has four average-ish pitches, and he just has to mix them well, sequence well, and throw strikes,” Cundall said. “If you can do that, you have the chance to develop into a fringe, back-end starter type, a No. 5 starter type. And I think that’s kind of more what the profile is looking like right now, because his fastball velocity is more like 90-92 (mph) now, tops out at 94. Before, he was 94 to 96. There’s a pretty substantial drop there, but if he’s throwing quality strikes at 90-92, and he’s mixing in an average curveball or an average changeup and a fringy slider, you can make that work.”

Becoming a back-end starter who can eat innings surely isn’t a bad spot for Groome, but as SoxProspects.com notes, his fastball settles in around 90-92 after the first couple of innings. If he and the Red Sox wanted to maximize his velocity, plugging him in as a reliever could be his ultimate fit instead.

Best-case scenario: Mid-rotation starter.

If Groome were to exceed expectations in 2022, while learning how to effectively mix his pitches, it sure feels like he could come close to his original potential.

The strikeout numbers are there to show Groome has something to work with. Developing his changeup and slider, to go along with his fastball and curveball, shows an understanding of him trying to grow as an overall pitcher. Becoming a mid-rotation guy sounds like an attainable scenario if all goes well.

SoxProspects ranking: No. 8

Groome is SoxProspects.com’s No. 2 pitching prospect behind right-hander Brayan Bello. The only other pitching prospect in the top 10 is Bryan Mata, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2021.

Fenway forecast
So, when will we see Groome pitching on the diamond in Fenway Park? It feels more likely for 2023 than the upcoming season, but it’s a long year and anything can happen.

“This will be his first full season in the upper minors, and now he’s on the 40-man, the big leagues are in sight and now it’s just make that next step and make that jump to show you can get out those more advanced hitters to reach his potential,” Cundall said.

Groome made his Grapefruit League debut on March 23, going 1-2-3, including a strikeout on a high fastball. Red Sox manager Alex Cora was impressed by the outing. If Groome can keep it up, Fenway could be in his sights sooner than anyone thinks.

Thumbnail photo via MLB photos via USA TODAY Sports Images
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