Red Sox Set To Kick off Fall Instructional League This Week With Bevy of Top Prospects in Attendance

The Red Sox are set to kick off their fall instructional league in Fort Myers on Monday. And according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, several of the club’s top prospects will take part in these offseason activities.

Among the 62 minor-leaguers who will report to Fenway South starting this week, several had just spent at least part of their summers at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. Those names, per Speier, include pitchers Bryan Mata and Jay Groome, infielders Triston Casas, Nick Yorke, and Hudson Potts, and outfielder Jeisson Rosario.

As for the prospects who did not receive an invite to the alternate site this season, there are right-handers Brayan Bello and Thad Ward, left-hander Chris Murphy, infielders Brainer Bonaci and Matthew Lugo, and speedy outfielder Gilberto Jimenez.

On top of that group of players, infielder Blaze Jordan and pitchers Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland — the rest of Boston’s 2020 draft class — are also expected to attend this offseason program that will run until November 12.

Although it is not yet clear if teams will be allowed to play games against one another due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these instructional leagues do allow the Red Sox, as well as the other 29 clubs, to get back in contact with the core of their minor-league talent.

Speaking of minor-league talent, as of September 1, the Sox had the No. 25 farm system in baseball according to MLB Pipeline.

As underwhelming as that ranking may be, there appears to be optimism from within the organization that things in that developmental area are steadily improving. PawSox manager Billy McMillon opined as much when speaking with reporters this past Friday via Zoom.

“I think it’s very promising right now,” McMillon said regarding the state of the Red Sox farm system. “Some of the returns that we got back in some of the various trades and offseason acquisitions, I think that’s going to raise the level of our minor-leagues. We saw some guys develop, get a little bit better. There’s encouraging news from guys that impressed on the mound to seeing how some of the position players developed. I think the cupboard is getting full again, and I think there’s reason for optimism with some of the guys that we saw in the alternate camp.”

Expect the full list of Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be attending fall instructs to be released relatively soon.

UPDATE: Here’s the full list of the 62 Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be at full instructs, courtesy of SoxProspects.

Red Sox Top Pitching Prospect Jay Groome Faces Live Hitters at McCoy Stadium

For the first time since being added to the Red Sox’ 60-man player pool last month, Jay Groome, the club’s top left-handed pitching prospect, faced live hitters at McCoy Stadium earlier Tuesday morning.

Getting some work in during a live batting practice session, Groome threw 25-30 pitches and faced the likes of other top prospects in the organization such as Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong, as well as Jhonny Pereda, and reached 94 mph with his fastball while also mixing in his curveball and changeup.

There were no umpires and very few fielders around him, but as WEEI’s Rob Bradford puts it, “Tuesday represented a big step forward” for Groome.

Turning 22 years old later this month, the New Jersey native was originally taken by Boston with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft out of Barnegat High School and later signed for $3.65 million.

Since that time, though, Groome has only made 20 professional starts across three minor-league levels as he has been hampered with different arm ailments, most recently undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2018.

Upon recovering from TJS, the 6-foot-6 southpaw was able to make three starts with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox and short-season Lowell Spinners last year, and now, he’s inching closer to appearing in a simulated game in Pawtucket.

Of course, under normal circumstances, Groome would likely be pushing for a promotion to Double-A Portland right about now, but because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the hurler’s development path has certainly been disrupted.

PawSox pitching coach Paul Abbott said as much about Groome when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.

“Obviously he needs to log innings,” stated Abbott. “He’s missed some valuable development periods for him to get on the mound and learn how to pitch as you go every step of the way.  Here’s a way how everything is looking, how everything is working so we have a good, solid idea going into spring training next year.”

With that in mind, the plan over the next six weeks is to see how Groome handles facing different levels of hitters so that the Red Sox have a good idea on where he will be at going into spring training next year.

Top Prospects Jeter Downs, Jarren Duran Among Nine New Additions to Red Sox’ Summer Camp Player Pool

As expected, the Red Sox have added nine players to their Summer Camp player pool, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom announced Friday. Those nine players — R.J. Alvarez, Jeter Downs, Jarren Duran, Jay Groome, Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, Josh Ockimey, Jhonny Perada, and Bobby Poyner — will report to the Sox’ alternate training site at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket.

On top of those additions, the Red Sox have also reassigned four players — Mike Kickham, Mike Shawaryn, Domingo Tapia, and Connor Wong — to that same alternating training site.

With all that being said, the Sox now have 56 players in their Summer Camp roster pool and will likely have 57 relatively soon seeing how the club is reportedly in agreement with right-hander Zack Godley on a minor-league contract.

More on that later. For now, let’s talk about the nine guys who were added to the Summer Camp player pool.

Jeter Downs, Bryan Mata, Jay Groome, Jarren Duran, and Tanner Houck represent five of those nine players, and all five are regarded by MLB Pipeline as top-10 prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system.

Downs, Boston’s top-ranked prospect, was one of three players acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade back in February. The soon-to-be 22-year-old out of Colombia is capable of playing both middle infield positions and has quite a bit of pop despite a 5-foot-11, 195 lb. frame, as he finished with the fourth-most homers (24) among all Dodgers minor-leaguers in 2019.

Mata, Boston’s top-ranked pitching prospect, originally joined the organization as an international free agent out of Venezuela in January 2016. He signed for just $25,000 back then, but the 21-year-old right-hander has worked his way to becoming somewhat of an oddity in the Sox’ farm sytem in that he could become a middle-of-the-rotation starter at the major-league level.

Unlike Downs and Mata, Jay Groome has yet to reach the Double-A plateau, and that’s mainly due to injuries. Boston’s top pick in the 2016 amateur draft, Groome underwent Tommy John surgery two Mays ago and has amassed just 20 starts and 66 innings pitched as a professional despite being with the organization for four years. Although the likelihood of Groome, who turns 22 next month, making it to the majors this year, is slim to none, it was obviously still important for the Sox to get the touted prospect time to develop under their watchful eye by whatever means possible. Groome is Boston’s No. 3 pitching prospect, by the way.

One thing Jarren Duran shares in common with Bryan Mata is that the two have been the Red Sox’ lone representative in MLB’s All-Star Futures Game the last two years, with the former making the cut in 2019 and the latter making the cut in 2018. Another thing the pair of prospects have in common is that they both somewhat came out of nowhere. As previously mentioned, Mata signed with Boston for a mere $25,000 four years ago. Duran, meanwhile, burst onto the scene as a seventh-round selection out of Long Beach state in ’18, finished his first full professional season with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, and was one of six Red Sox prospects invited to play in the Arizona Fall League. Despite not being on his parent club’s 40-man roster, Duran, the Red Sox’eight-ranked prospect, did get added to the Summer Camp player pool over fellow outfielder Marcus Wilson, who is on the 40-man. So, it would appear that the Red Sox have high hopes for the speedster moving forward, especially when considering how well he looked earlier this year in spring training.

Finally, we arrive at another 2019 Arizona Fall Leaguer in the form of Tanner Houck, the Sox’ 10th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Recently turning 24 years old last month, the 2017 first-round pick out of Mizzou has experience as both a starter and reliever. He undertook both roles in the minors last year, but likely projects as a rotation man moving forward.

As for the other four players added on Friday, Josh Ockimey and Jhonny Perada are without a doubt the most interesting of the bunch.

At one point in time, Ockimey was left off the Sox’ 40-man roster ahead of the 2018 Rule 5 draft and very well could have been snatched up by another club that December. He wasn’t though, and the 24-year-old first baseman in turn slugged 25 home runs over 122 games for the PawSox last year.

Perada, as you may remember, was acquired by Boston from the Cubs as the player to be named later in the Travis Lakins trade back in January. Like Connor Wong, he certainly adds to the level of catching depth the Sox have at the minor-league level.

After all was said and done, the Red Sox now have 56 players on their 60-man Summer Camp roster pool. 30 of those players will make the team’s Opening Day roster, while the other 26-30 will report to the alternate training site in Pawtucket as some already have.

Red Sox Prospect Jay Groome and the 2020 Rule 5 Draft

Jay Groome is one of 49 Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter. That means that he will have to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster before the November deadline in order to avoid being eligible for said draft.

On upside alone, the former 2016 first-round pick will presumably make the cut, and will likely be part of the Sox’ 30-man taxi squad in Pawtucket for the upcoming, truncated 2020 season.

That being said, with it looking more and more likely that there won’t be any organized minor-league baseball at all this year, Groome loses the opportunity to further develop coming off an injury-shortened 2019 campaign.

Recovering from Tommy John surgery underwent in May 2018, the New Jersey native was not able to see any in-game action until last August, where he made a total of three starts between the Gulf Coast League Red Sox and short-season Lowell Spinners before the minor-league season came to a close.

A small sample size, the left-hander allowed one run on five hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over four innings of work in those three outings.

Since signing with the Sox out of Barnegat High School in July 2016, Groome has made just 20 starts and pitched 66 innings between three minor-league levels over that time period.

As mentioned earlier, injuries have played a factor in that. Not only did Groome undergo Tommy John surgery in 2018, but before that, he missed time in 2017 due to a strained lat muscle and forearm strain.

Before Major League Baseball shut down spring training in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seemed as though Groome was looking forward to the full season of work ahead of him at the time.

He told WEEI’s Rob Bradford earlier in the year, “I have my family pushing me because they know I’m back where I need to be. I’m healthy. They just want to see me finally start up a full season again. It has been a long time.”

Things have obviously changed since then, though, and it would appear that the only in-game action the 21-year-old will see this year will be of the intra-squad variety.

Clubs across MLB have until 4 PM eastern time on Sunday to submit their 60-man player pools, half of which will make up the active roster to begin the season while the other half will serve as a taxi squad that will essentially remain on standby.

Many teams have already announced that a number of their top prospects will make up their respective taxi squads.

Although no official announcement has come from the Red Sox yet, expect Groome, Boston’s seventh-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, to be one of the club’s touted youngsters to make the cut.

Jeter Downs, Triston Casas, Bobby Dalbec, Jarren Duran, Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, Thad Ward, and Marcus Wilson are among the other Sox prospects who could also make up the club’s taxi squad.

Red Sox’ Seventh-Ranked Prospect Jay Groome Tosses Another Scoreless First Inning in Second Gulf Coast League Start

After making his first professional appearance in nearly two years on August 21st, Red Sox left-handed pitching prospect Jay Groom tossed a scoreless first inning once again in his second start with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox on Monday.

Facing off against the Baltimore Orioles’ GCL squad in Sarasota, Fla., the 21-year-old had a man on second with no outs following a leadoff single and stolen base, but he managed to work his way around the jam with a three-pitch strikeout and back-to-back first-pitch groundouts to retire the side in the bottom half of the first.

In total, Groome needed just six pitches, all of which were strikes, to work his second consecutive scoreless first inning in a contest the GCL Sox eventually dropped by a final score of 5-2.

Ranked as the seventh overall prospect in Boston’s system and third amongst pitchers behind right-hander Bryan Mata and left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez, Groome is working his way back after undergoing successful Tommy John Surgery in May of 2018.

With the Gulf Coast League regular season wrapping up on August 31st and the Sox’ GCL club already eliminated from playoff contention, it looks as though Groome’s last in-game action of 2019 will come against the Minnesota Twins’ GCL team this coming Saturday at JetBlue Park.

Red Sox’ Seventh-Ranked Prospect Jay Groome Punches out Two in 2019 Gulf Coast League Debut

Red Sox left-handed pitching prospect Jay Groome tossed a scoreless first inning for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox on Wednesday in what was his first professional appearance in nearly two years.

Facing off against the Atlanta Braves’ GCL team in North Port, Fla. earlier Wednesday morning, the soon to be 21-year-old hurler needed only eight pitches, all of which were strikes, to punch out two and yield one hit in a nearly-perfect frame of work.

Selected by Boston with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft out of Barnegat High School in New Jersey, Groome had been out since the 2017 campaign, where he injured his throwing elbow late into the year and eventually underwent successful Tommy John surgery in May of 2018.

Before all that went down, Groome posted a 2.70 ERA and .125 batting average against over his first three professional starts and 6 2/3 innings pitched between the GCL Red Sox and short-season Lowell Spinners in 2016.

In 2017, the New Jersey native showed some signs of struggle, pitching to the tune of a 5.69 ERA and .234 batting average against through 14 starts and 55 1/3 total innings of work between Lowell and Class-A Greenville before being sidelined.

Per his MiLB.com page, Groome is on a rehab assignment with the GCL Sox, and given how the minor league season wraps up in under two weeks, it’s hard to imagine the lefty pitching anywhere else this year.

Despite all the time he has missed, Groome is still ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Red Sox’ farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.