Baseball – Red Sox Take Jason Groome No. 12 Overall in MLB Draft
After some anxious moments over the last two weeks, the wait is over for Jason Groome and it ended with his favorite team picking him in the first round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
The Boston Red Sox selected the Barnegat High School senior with the 12th pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, making him the highest ever Shore Conference draft pick straight out of high school. Toms River North alum J.M. Gold was selected 13th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1998.
"It’s a crazy feeling hearing my name called, especially by the Red Sox," Groome said. "My family had no idea it was coming when it did. It's just a dream come true."
Groome watched the draft with family and friends at a relative's house and said he had no inclination that the Red Sox were about to select him.
"I had no clue," Groome said. "They said my name, I was texting a friend back at my cousin's house and all of a sudden I hear my name. It was such an awesome experience."
Since the end of Barnegat’s high school season, Groome’s stock had fluctuated wildly in light of a number of developments. He entered the season as the front-runner to be the No. 1 pick but signing bonus demands coupled with mixed track record of high school pitchers caused some teams to back off. This week, he decommitted from Vanderbilt and committed to junior college power Chipola College, as confirmed by Mike McGarry of the Atlantic City Press. Some draft experts floated the notion that some teams with eight-figure signing bonus allotments were hoping to make a deal with Groome with their second overall selections.
Instead, it was the Red Sox – who had only one first-round pick and less than $7 million in their signing bonus pool – who stepped up and took Groome. The recommended signing bonus for the No. 12 pick is $3.19 million, according to MLB.com.
"I learned that just because people say something, doesn’t mean its going to happen," Groome said. "There was a lot of talk going around but I couldn't really control any of it. I've always just worked hard and worried about the things I could control."
Groome grew up a Red Sox fan in Barnegat and one of the highlights of his experience as a high-profile prospect was receiving an encouraging direct message from Boston ace David Price via Twitter. Price is not only a left-hander in the Red Sox organization, but is also a product of Vanderbilt, where Groome initially committed to play college baseball.
"(Draft day) came so quick," Groome said. "I couldn’t fall asleep. I probably fell asleep at four in the morning, I was so pumped. I can’t wait to get started."
During his senior season, Groome unofficially pitched 39 2/3 innings and struck out 90 hitters while walking 14. He allowed 15 hits and despite winning only one game, his ERA was 0.77 ERA.
Officially, Groome pitched only 28 2/3 innings this season because of a decision by the New Jersey Interstate Athletic Association to rule Groome ineligible for 30 days to start the 2016 season due to a violation of the transfer rule. Since Groome’s first two starts and 11 innings came during those first 30 days, they were wiped from the record and Groome was forced to sit 19 more days before he became eligible.
Groome transferred from Barnegat to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. prior to the second semester of his junior year of high school and pitched in the Sunshine State during the spring of 2016. Following that season, Groome decided to transfer back home to Barnegat for his senior season, which he made public in July.
By NJSIAA rule, players who change schools without a bona fide change of address – which covers boarding schools like IMG – are required to sit 30 days or half of his team’s scheduled games before becoming eligible to play.
Groome’s two vacated starts took away 11 shutout innings and 29 strikeouts, leaving his official senior season numbers at 28 2/3 innings, 14 hits, 13 walks, 61 strikeouts and a 1.22 ERA while pitching to a 1-3 record. Groome also had a 19-strikeout no-hitter against Central Regional on April 11 wiped off the record because of the NJSIAA ruling. In that game, Groome allowed one baserunner to reach on an error and promptly picked him off.
Groome's shining moment of 2016 was a two-hitter he pitched against Gloucester Catholic in front of 6,005 fans at Campbell's Field in Camden. Although Barnegat lost the game, 1-0, Groome allowed the Rams - the state's top-ranked team at the time - just one unearned run on those two hits and two walks while striking out 14 in six innings. The 6-foot-5 left-hander closed the game by striking out eight consecutive batters.
A standout sophomore season at Barnegat began a meteoric rise for Groome. He went 6-2 with a 0.57 ERA, 25 hits allowed, 14 walks and 107 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings while helping lead the Bengals to their first ever trips to the Ocean County, Shore Conference and NJSIAA South Jersey Group II Tournament championship games. In the South Jersey II final, Groome struck out 16 and walked one in a one-hitter, but lost the game 1-0 by allowing an unearned run in the seventh inning.
Groome is still 17 years-old and will not turn 18 until late August. He will have until July 15 at 11:59 p.m. to sign a contract with the Red Sox and if he does not come to an agreement, he will be eligible to attend Chipola and re-enter the 2017 Draft.
"I'm going to get together with my adviser and that’s what we’re going to discuss," Groome said. "Money doesn’t matter to me. I'm just excited for the next chapter in my life and I can't wait to get started. I have a chance to play for my favorite team. I can’t ask for anything more than that."