On June 9th, the Cincinnati Reds will have the 2nd selection in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft. Over the next few weeks, the team here at Red Reporter will scour the internet to bring you scouting reports, statistics, and moving pictures of all of the prospects being linked to the Reds pick.
We already spoke at length a bit about why the Reds taking a pitcher at No. 2 overall isn't as far-fetched a possibility as it may seem on the surface. The Reds lack depth with their position prospects, and there are a few polished college bats that will be at their disposal when their pick comes. None, however, seem to possess the kind of potential a few arms do, and a pick this high in the middle of a rebuild is a chance to bring in somebody capable of altering your entire franchise.
Jason Groome, 17, has just wrapped up his final high school season, and despite a Vanderbilt commitment, is a virtual lock to be drafted in the top ten of this year's draft. Groome, like Florida's Puk, has the build to last a long time in professional baseball, standing at 6-foot-6 and 220 lbs. He boasts a live fastball, sitting in the 92-94 range but peaking around 97 miles per hour, but his curve is what draws the most attention from scouts, thanks to its gorgeous depth.
Just look at this shit:
That's a kid who only gained the legal right to watch The Revenant by himself less than a year ago throwing low 90's heat with roughly the same amount of effort it takes you to click the play button. So, he telegraphs the curve a little. Give him four years in the minors to learn how to correct that, and he's still a major league pitcher before his 22nd birthday.
Professional Scouting Grades (via Fueled by Sports):
Tool Projected Grade
Groome has everything to be a top-of-the-rotation left-handed starting pitcher, from his 6-foot-6 frame to the potential to have three above-average to plus offerings. The fastball is already there, up to 96 mph and sitting 92-93 mph over the summer, and in the 90-94 mph range in the early stages of the spring. Groome features a nasty curve as well, with tight rotation and bite. He doesn't throw his changeup often, but he's shown some feel for it, with some sink. Groome is generally around the plate and has clean mechanics, with a pretty good overall feel for pitching.
Keith Law of ESPN braved some early-April cold weather to watch Groome this spring, and liked what he saw:
At whatever effort level Groome was throwing on Tuesday, his delivery looked great, as he stays over the rubber a long time, takes a long step-over stride, and gets some extension over his front side. He threw strikes all day, and his command of the curveball was especially impressive and further along than his command of the fastball.
And here's Ryan Fagan of Sporting News, who actually has the Reds selecting Groome in his mock draft:
The idea of polished college batters like Corey Ray or Kyle Lewis taking aim at the outfield seats at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park by 2018 — when the Reds’ current rebuilding process should finally be in contend-now mode — has to be appealing, but it will be hard for the Reds to pass on a talent like Groome, if the Phillies opt against taking the prep lefty with the big arm first overall. He’s consistently ranked first or second on most ranking-the-draft-prospects lists, and he’s one of only a handful of potential true "ace" pitchers in this draft.
What Should The Reds Do?
Law did some digging with the Philadelphia Phillies, who possess the No. 1 overall pick, a couple of weeks ago, and has been reporting that the club doesn't have any desire to select Groome, or any other prep arm, with their first selection. It's an interesting piece of information, considering Groome has played in Philadelphia's backyard for most of his high school career, but the Phillies' lack of interest in him seems to stem from the lack of success of high school pitchers who go in the top of the draft throughout history, and is not supposed to be about anything they've scouted on Groome.
This would guarantee Groome being on the board for the Reds to nab, if they choose to accept the risks of taking a high school arm with this pick. There's certainly a high reward potentially present here - lefties with this kind of fastball/curve combination have a decent track record in the big leagues. But it would be difficult to fault the Reds for looking past the sky-high projections and getting scared of the possibility of paying a big fat signing bonus to a kid who's arm could blow out in two years.
That's not to say Groome has greater odds of breaking than any other pitcher in the class - or worse, for that matter. But he would be a good litmus test for just how bold the Reds are going to be in putting together their next contending team. On draft day, the Reds will be staring at at least two of Puk, Groome and prep righty Riley Pint, along with a whole mess of high-floor college bats and spry high school outfielders. Do they play their cards close to their chest and snag a predictable puzzle piece? Or do they go all in on a guy who could wind up as a spectacular success or embarrassing bust?
I'm not envious of the person who has to make that decision.