No. 12 overall pick Jason Groome will start for the Lowell Spinners Friday night. (WEEI.com)

Red Sox minor league notebook: Jason Groome 'ecstatic' to be with Lowell Spinners after eventful draft process

Ryan Hannable
September 01, 2016 - 6:48 am
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Highly touted 18-year-old left-hander Jason Groome finally can breathe a sigh of relief. Groome was drafted No. 12 overall by the Red Sox in June's MLB draft, signed a professional contract, started two games in the Florida Gulf Coast League and now is preparing to start for the short-season Single-A Lowell Spinners on Friday night. On the surface it sounds like a pretty seamless and exciting process, but it was anything but smooth for Groome. "I'm ecstatic now. I am finally living out my career," Groome said Wednesday. It was evident as a high school sophomore that Groome was a special talent pitching for Barnegat High School in Barnegat, New Jersey. The lefty helped Barnegat to its first 20-win season when he went 6-2 with a 0.57 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings. With Groome being so talented, it was thought IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, would be the best place for him as he could get some of the best instruction in the country and potentially get more exposure than he would pitching in New Jersey. Groome transferred there for his junior season and went 5-0 with a 0.98 ERA and 77 strikeouts against nine walks in eight starts. From a baseball perspective Groome loved it, but from an off-the-field perspective, something was missing. So he transferred back home following just one season. "The baseball side of it and the strength part of it were 110 percent awesome," Groome said. "You can't get that training anywhere else. It's second to none. Overall, I just felt like I needed to come back and be with my family for the last year before I was going off to pro ball or college. I just felt like I had to be around my family a little bit more. Down there we couldn't compete for a state championship, so I figured why not come back and try and win the first one in Barnegat history." It wasn't an easy transition returning home as the Barnegat team had to forfeit some of its games early in the season because of a transferring issue with Groome's address. On the mound, he posted a 0.77 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 15 hits allowed in 39 2/3 innings. On April 11, he recorded 19 strikeouts in the first no-hitter in school history, facing the minimum number of batters over seven innings. While he was dominant on the mound, it took a while to regain the trust of his teammates. "I could feel like they were a little upset I left in the first place, but towards the end of the season we basically got back to where we were," Groome said. "We remembered we were always there for each other and we became brothers once again. The season didn't turn out the way we wanted to, but it was great playing with all those guys again." Groome had risen to the top of all the draft boards as he was being heavily scouted since the beginning of his junior season, but this is when things started to get even more difficult for him. As the draft neared, he became the talk of the entire draft about how his stock was dropping because of character concerns and rumors swirling from his time at IMG regarding why he transferred out. Many pegged Groome to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft just a few months earlier, but it wasn't until the No. 12 overall pick when Groome finally heard his name called by the Red Sox. "More so not the draft night, it was more so leading up to the draft -- mainly the talk was how I was going to slip and stuff," Groome said. "Me and my family just kept praying it was all going to work out how it was supposed to. When the Red Sox picked me, we had no idea. They are my favorite team, but we had no idea. My dream finally became a reality. It was awesome." The negative chatter surrounding the pitcher continued following the draft about how big of a risk the Red Sox took by drafting him, and the rumors never really went away until he officially signed on July 15. Groome said the things that were said about him were tough to hear, but he credited his parents for helping him get through it all. "My parents really helped me through that part because it was mainly just he-said, she-said stuff," he said. "I am young, so it kind of gets to my head a little bit, but I have my parents and they just keep pushing me through it. They just kept saying as long as we know it's not true, we know it's not, so who cares if people are going to think it, as it will happen the rest of your career." The Red Sox, despite not selecting until No. 12 overall, were hot on Groome's trail since he was at IMG. In fact, area scout Ray Fagnant was at all of Groome's starts this past spring and visited him at his home on July 15, the day before the signing deadline. Groome shared what Fagnant said to him. "We picked you for a reason," Groome recalled hearing. "You're a special kid and your talent is second to none, so we took a chance and we're happy we finally got you." After signing, Groome went down to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers to get accustomed to what it's like to be a professional and be a member of the Red Sox. He got on the organization's throwing program and soaked in all the information he could. Just about a month after being down there, he debuted in the Florida Gulf Coast League on Aug. 22 but was kept on a strict two-inning, 35-pitch limit as the organization is being very careful with him since he's so young. The 6-foot-6 lefty pitched in two games before before promoted this week. Over four innings, he's allowed one run on three hits while not walking a batter and striking out eight. Groome admitted it's tough only going two innings. "It's kind of a little bummer. I'm used to going out there and pitching until I get taken out of the game," he said. "In my two starts down there I felt like I really pitched well. I have command of all my pitches and overall I just felt good in those four innings I threw down there." Groome will start Friday night in Norwich, Connecticut, against the Connecticut Tigers and could get one more start after that, assuming the Spinners reach the postseason. Pitching for Lowell at some point was the plan all along since he signed, but Groome is grateful for the opportunity. "I was more so excited to get up here and face a different type of competition I guess I should say," he said. "Most importantly, getting to represent another team on my chest. It's a great feeling." As for the future, Groome noted it's hard not to let his mind drift and think about potentially reaching the big leagues, and he's not afraid to admit one of his long-term goals, which is an indication of just how good he can potentially be. "That's the eventual goal, but right now I know I am at the end of the ladder, but if I keep working and prove to everyone that I can do it there's no reason why I can't be up there in a short amount of time," he said. "That's the end goal and eventually to be a Hall of Famer, but you can't rush the process, you just have to trust it." OTHER MINOR LEAGUE NOTES -- The Arizona Fall League rosters were announced on Wednesday and the Surprise Saguaros will have a number of players in the Red Sox organization on its roster including top prospect Yoan Moncada and pitching prospect Michael Kopech. Scheduled to join Moncada and Kopech are pitchers Trey Ball, Jalen Beeks, and Jamie Callahan, along with infielder Mauricio Dubon and outfielder Danny Mars. Sea Dogs manager Carlos Febles will serve as the team's manager. Most of these players aren't surprises as in Kopech's case he needs to make up for innings lost at the beginning of the year and be challenged with better competition. Moncada needs as much exposure to third base as he can and Ball needs the work to try and get some consistency as the former No. 7 overall pick has struggled to sustain consistency. It's Callahan's second straight season on the roster. The Red Sox had eight players on the Surprise roster last fall, including Callahan, Justin Haley, Tzu-Wei Lin, Kyle Martin, Danny Rosenbaum, Chandler Shepherd, Sam Travis and Aaron Wilkerson. -- With Moncada being promoted, it's important to note a misconception with the switch-hitter that many have as many believe he's a polished overall switch-hitter, but in fact he has a ways to go against lefties when batting from the right side. Going into Wednesday, in 35 at-bats from the right side in Double-A, he's batting just .171. While he may help the Red Sox' deep hole at third base, he certainly cannot be depended on to save the season by playing every day, especially when going up against opposing left-handers.