Jason Groome is hands-down the most attractive piece in the 2016 MLB Draft.
Groome is 17 years old. He has a frame that scouts drool over, standing at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds. He’s a lefty, and everyone knows that there isn’t a Major League Baseball team that doesn’t fall in love with with a hulking, imposing lefty on the mound. He has an arsenal consisting of three pitches that most scouts and baseball heads will tell you are already plus offerings.
Just to reiterate… he is only 17.
Groome, of course, made more headlines in 2016 for a controversial move than he did for his pitching. After pitching for his high school in Barnegat, New Jersey in his freshman and sophomore seasons, Groome took his talents to the famed IMG Academy in Florida. He had an impressive junior year, but he left Barnegat with an incomplete feeling. He had goals to throw the first no-hitter in Bengals lore and he wanted to bring that elusive championship to his old high school. Plus, what senior doesn’t want to finish his last year of school with all of his friends?
Despite moving back in with his parents, who maintained residency in New Jersey, Groome was suspended for 30 days for transfer violations. It wasn’t before he achieved one of his goals, however. Back at Barnegat, with nearly 30 more pounds of bulk than when he left, Groome threw that no-hitter. He also happened to strike out 19 in the process. Remember, high school games go seven innings. For those not proficient in math, that means two, TWO, batters in the entire game were not the victims of a strikeout.
That’s who Groome is. He is simply overpowering, already being compared to Clayton Kershaw. He’s hung out with Bryce Harper and Mike Trout and gets tweets from David Price. He’s been offered scholarships up and down the East Coast and currently has a commitment to Vanderbilt. While that may be a strong enough commitment to scare off other high school draft candidates, it shouldn’t matter with Groome.
His fastball is already a pitch ready for the next level. He hits between 92 and 94 regularly and has topped out at 96. He has a big mid-70s curve that is already tight in its delivery, fooling hitters with ease, albeit they are teenagers. His changeup is his least-used pitch, sitting in the low 70s, but it isn’t because it is ineffective. Several have reported that he seems to have a natural sink in his change which, added to the heat of his fastball, will make it even more deceptive should he master it as an out pitch.
When it comes to competition, Groome recently went head-to-head with Gloucester Catholic, the No. 3-ranked school in New Jersey. He walked two batters, but as usual, struck out double-digits, sitting down 14. This week, Barnegat starts its state playoff run. Groome will pitch in relief Monday and start Thursday should they advance. You can be certain that hundreds of eyes will be on those games. You want to know if he can handle pressure? Over 6,000 spectators were on hand for Groome’s matchup against Gloucester, and he came out just fine.
You would be hard pressed to find a 17-year-old with his size that doesn’t miss the strike zone every now and then, but that hardly suggests that Groome suffers from any sort of command or control problems. He does sometimes throw a lot of pitches, but a double-digit strikeout performance has become the norm for the young fireballer.
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