Evaluating Groome’s Injury & Farm System Depth

The Red Sox lose top pitching prospect, Groome, to Tommy John surgery.

Just a few hours before the Red Sox were set to take on the Yankees in the second game of their series in the Bronx, reports came in that top prospect, Jay Groome, would be lost for the remainder of the 2018 season – and likely all of 2019 – after tearing the UCL ligament in his pitching arm.

The injury will require Tommy John ligament replacement surgery performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Groome found his way to the top of the Red Sox prospect list after several notable graduations to the majors and other top prospects being dealt away in trades for key players. He has yet to show much consistency while on the mound, as other injuries have kept him from pitching a full season and the organization has been cautious with his work load to this point in his career.

When on the mound, he’s shown flashes of what the Red Sox hope will turn into a future ace, even though the results have been nothing short of terrible. Still, the raw talent and projectability have Groome ranked among the top 50 prospects in the game according to multiple outlets that specialize in ranking prospects. The lefty was a projected number one pick before sliding in the first round to the Boston Red Sox.

The success rate for pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery is high, and the 2016 first round pick will still be just 21 years old when he takes the mound again. Coming into the 2018 season Groome was still in the low minors and his expected ETA to Boston was 2020 at the very earliest. This injury will push that timetable back significantly, as he has still yet to pitch a full season at in level in professional baseball.

Red Sox Farm System Blunders

The Groome injury comes on the heels of the Sox #2 prospect, Michael Chavis, being lost for over half a season with an 80-game suspension for PED use.

After a breakout season at the AA level in 2017, there was an outside chance of seeing Chavis in the majors in 2018. His impact on the big league club likely coming in the form of depth or injury replacement, but most likely as a September call-up when the rosters expand. With the top two prospects now inactive, the most promising talent in the farm system is in the lower levels, with the exception of first baseman, Sam Travis. With something of a logjam of 1B/DH types at the Major League level, it looks like Travis will stay in Pawtucket barring an injury.

The loss of Groome and Chavis opens the door for any number of promising young players to take the torch of top prospect in the Red Sox system. Promising infield prospect C.J. Chatham recently earned a promotion to AA, but he’s coming off of a serious shoulder injury that sidelined him for much of 2017, and he’s yet to play in the field despite putting up impressive stats in the DH role. Young pitchers Bryan Mata, Travis Lankins, and 2017 first round pick Tanner Houck are all looking to log significant innings against quality competition for the first time in their career, but each holds promise to one day play a critical role at the big league level.

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Outfielder Josh Ockimey displayed some loud tolls in Spring Training and showed advanced plate discipline in 2017, but has yet to get things going at AA Portland in 2018. These players, along with a handful of others, could potentially develop into the organization’s top prospect, but the loss of Groome is a pretty big blow to an already thin farm system with regard to premium talent.

The acquisitions of Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, and Drew Pomeranz – along with the graduation of Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers to the Major Leagues – have seen no less than a half dozen top 50 prospects (at the time of the rankings) make their way out of the farm system.

The Chavis suspension, and now the Groome injury (along with the passing of prized international signing Daniel Flores) have dealt some major blows to an already thin system. With the draft less than a month away and the international signing period shortly after that, lets hope the front office and the scouting department can re-stock our once prized farm system with some premium talent.

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