Can the Red Sox organization sign Jason Groome? (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images).
1. One of the biggest questions between now and July 15 for the Red Sox may be off the field as that is the deadline they have to sign No. 12 overall pick Jason Groome.
As has been well-documented, the high school left-hander was expected to be the No. 1 overall pick at one point in time, but slid all the way down to No. 12, as there were reported concerns with his character as well as questions of whether or not he could be signed once he got out of the top five since he reportedly was and still is seeking top five money.
The Red Sox took a chance and selected the New Jersey high school product when it was their turn at No. 12 and now have until July 15 to sign him.
Negotiations between the Red Sox and Groome’s agent Jeff Randazzo didn’t really start to occur until the last week or so, as Groome couldn’t sign a deal until he graduated high school, which was on June 22. According to a source, the two sides are working towards a deal, but it would appear as of now they aren’t close to an agreement.
Groome is said to want a deal well above the slotted value of $3.2 million for the No. 12 overall pick. The Red Sox are doing what they can to free up some of their top 10 bonus pool money for Groome, which is $6,997,400, as they signed two college seniors — Ryan Scott and Matt McLean — to bonuses of $10,000 each. They also signed three more players in second rounder CJ Chatham, sixth rounder Steve Nogosek and eighth rounder Alan Marrero to below slot value deals.
They still have to sign third rounder Shaun Anderson and fourth rounder Bobby Dalbec, who each played in the College World Series, and both are expected to sign for at or just below slot value. Then, 10th rounder Santiago Espinal is close to signing for below slot value as well. Finally, fifth rounder Mike Shawaryn reportedly is seeking an over slot deal, but after him all that is left to sign is Groome. When all is set and done, the Red Sox should have at or just above $4 million to offer Groome.
Looking at the top five picks in this year’s draft, the No. 3 and No. 4 picks were both high school pitchers as the Braves took Ian Anderson out of Shenendehowa High School in New York and the Rockies took Riley Pint out of Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Kansas. They both agreed to below slot value deals of $4 million in Anderson’s case and $4.8 million in Pint’s case.
Somewhere between $4 and $4.5 million seems appropriate to offer Groome and while he does have the option to not sign and enroll at Chipola Junior College before re-entering the draft next year, there is no guarantee he would go in the top three where he would be likely to get more than the $4.5 million he could potentially get now, especially with how good the 2017 draft class is said to be. He also runs the risk of potentially getting injured, or just not putting up the numbers like he’s been doing to this point in his career.
Not signing would certainly be a risky move for Groome, especially if it is over a couple hundred-thousand dollars. The two sides have until July 15 to come to an agreement and it could come down to the final hours as it appears both sides would like to get a deal done, but just at a price they both can agree on.
2. Michael Kopech was supposed to start last Thursday night with High-A Salem after one start with short-season, Single-A Lowell, but he was scratched from the start after feeling leg soreness while warming up. The right-hander was placed on the disabled list retroactive to June 24 with a calf strain in what was more of a precautionary move than anything else. The expectation is he will miss one or two starts and then be good to go without any further concern.
In his first start in almost a year on June 17 in Lowell, the 20-year-old went 4 1/3 shutout innings, scattering four hits, walking four and striking out four. He’s considered one of the best talents in the organization as his fastball tops out in the high-90s and has good off-speed stuff as well. Given his talent, the organization wants to push him after being suspended 50 games to end last season with Single-A Greenville and then missing all of spring training this past year with a broken hand suffered during an altercation with a teammate.
3. Greenville outfielder Kyri Washington has been one of the biggest surprises in the entire Red Sox organization this year. After barely making the Greenville squad out of spring training, the right-handed hitter is currently fifth in the South Atlantic League with 11 home runs.
Overall, he’s batting .289 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs, but he has struck out 60 times, compared to walking just 10 times.
“Kyri is really coming into his own as a hitter,” Greenville manager Darren Fenster said. “This is a guy who was very, very raw and was not really penciled in to come here. He was one of a handful of guys fighting for one of the few outfield spots. He had a great spring and has built off his spring. This kid has as big of power as anyone on this team, including Michael Chavis. He really has done a good job of not missing mistakes. As his numbers have been impressive and other teams start to see is power numbers, they’ve obviously been attacking him differently and going after him with more off-speed stuff.
“To his credit, he has adjusted and showed some discipline where he’s either laying off pitches that he can’t handle, balls out of the zone and recognizing that get-me-over breaking ball early in the count and doing some damage with that. He’s really progressing nicely and I think he’s probably surprised a lot of people with what he’s been able to do here so far.”
4. Even though Dalbec, the Red Sox’ fourth-round pick, will likely start in the winner-take-all game Thursday night in the College World Series and he compiled a 4-1 record with a 1.21 ERA and five saves over 10 appearances during the regular season with Arizona, it will likely be his last time on the mound as the Red Sox drafted him and plan on sticking with him at third base and at the plate.
The right-hander himself prefers playing third base and hitting, but still pitched quite a bit during his three-year career with the Wildcats. Despite logging over 120 innings on the mound, Dalbec said this week he doesn’t really like pitching.
“I’ve never been a big fan of pitching,” Dalbec said via Baseball America. “I’ve always liked hitting a lot more, even though it’s a lot harder. This could end up being my last time pitching, so it’s kind of a weird feeling, but I’m looking forward to just focusing on being a position player.”
5. While the numbers haven’t been what he would like in his 15 games back with Greenville after missing well over a month with a thumb injury, Michael Chavis is a much better hitter than he was a year ago. Last season, Chavis seemingly swung at anything in sight, striking out 144 times in 109 games and walking just 29 times. Pitch selection was a major focus in the offseason for him and it’s paid off.
For the season, in 30 games Chavis has struck out 21 times, while walking seven times. Despite batting .211 in 15 games since his return, for the year he is batting .284 with four homers and 18 RBIs.
“The steps that this kid has taken just from spring training and the beginning of the year relative to where he was for the majority of last year, he’s doing all the things from an offensive perspective approach wise and discipline wise, that we really struggled to get through to him for the five months of the season last year,” Fenster said. “When he’s doing that, the results are usually going to take care of themselves. We have a lot of confidence with where he’s at right now even with the last week or so and the results not being there.”
6. After struggling with Lowell last year, batting just .181 in 51 games, outfielder Tate Matheny has performed much better this season with Single-A Greenville. In 53 games he’s batting .313 with 17 extra-base hits and 32 RBIs.
Matheny, the Red Sox’ fourth-round pick last year and son of Cardinals manager Mike, played a lot of baseball last season starting with Missouri State and could have been a reason for his struggles in Lowell. Now settled in as a professional, Matheny has been one of the better players on the Greenville roster.
“Tate has put together really a solid year,” Fenster said. “Everyone knows the background and I think he plays the game with a lot more baseball acumen than most and that is a product of him coming up and living in major league clubhouses as a kid and just being around the game as much as he has been. He expects a lot out of himself and that for him sometimes it is a double-edged sword, but it all comes from a really good place in terms of him wanting to do so well.
“It comes down to him understanding who he is as a player and knowing situations, in terms of when to take a chance and when not because this kid feels like he can make a play whenever he is on the field and that is a really good trait to have. He’s been very valuable in a number of different spots in our lineup, whether at the top or in the middle. He’s played an outstanding defensive outfield whether he’s in right or center field. He is an above average defender.”
7. The Red Sox are certainly in need of some bullpen help as the second half of the season approaches and likely will be one of the areas they focus on before the trade deadline. But, before going all in, the Red Sox should see what they have internally before fully committing to someone outside the organization.
Hard-throwing righty Pat Light was recalled earlier in the week and the Red Sox might ought to check out right-hander Chandler Shepherd as well. Although he’s only been in Pawtucket for three games, he’s 23 years old after being selected in the 13th round of the 2014 draft out of Kentucky. In 25 games this season between Portland and Pawtucket, the right-hander is 1-1 with a 1.46 ERA and in 37 innings has struck out 43 batters, while holding opponents to a .130 batting average.
8. Salem left-handed pitcher Trey Ball was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week for June 20-26 as he tossed seven scoreless innings against Frederick Sunday afternoon. The Red Sox’ 2013 first-round pick has been dominant of late as in his last three starts — all wins — he has allowed only two earned runs in 19.1 innings pitched for a 0.93 ERA.
After missing the first month of the season due to knee surgery in February, Ball returned to Salem for his second year in High-A and is 5-3 with a 2.29 ERA in 11 starts. His .220 opponent batting average ranks third among Carolina League qualifiers while the 2.29 ERA is good for fourth. With the way he’s pitching now, Ball potentially could be promoted to Portland in the coming weeks.
9. Although the offensive numbers don’t jump out, 2015 third-round pick catcher Austin Rei is having a solid first full professional season in Greenville, as he was selected to the South Atlantic All-Star team.
Rei is batting just .228, but what really has stood out is what he’s done behind the plate.
“Austin’s strong-suit this year has been without a doubt his catching ability,” Fenster said. “He’s been just a very good receiver, consistent. His ability to control the running game has been outstanding at any level, yet alone in the South Atlantic League. While his offense hasn’t necessarily been to what he’s focused on, he’s done a very good job bringing different things to the table and has been a big part of why as a team we’ve had the success that we’ve had.”
10. Things are improving for Chatham as the second-round pick suffered a broken thumb in a regional game against Long Beach State when he was with Florida Atlantic about a week before being drafted. Chatham didn’t think anything was wrong at the time, but during his physical with the Red Sox it was found his thumb was broken.
The shortstop has been in Fort Myers rehabbing for about two weeks and after X-rays earlier this week, he is set to beginning throwing and hitting again on Monday. The organization will see how he responds before deciding the next step, which likely would be reporting to Lowell.