Jason Groome, the No. 1 prospect in our Top 100 Draft Prospects, helped his stock on Monday, throwing a no-hitter in Barnegat (N.J.) High's 6-0 victory over Central Regional High (Bayville, N.J.).
Groome struck out 19 batters over seven innings of work, throwing 92 pitches in the win. He allowed just two balls in play. The first was a soft ground ball to third base, and the runner reached on an error. Groome picked off the runner at first base. The second ball in play came on an elevated fastball, when a righthanded hitter hit a lazy fly to left field. Groome did not walk anyone, so if not for the error, he would have had a perfect game. He faced the minimum 21 batters.
"It's the first one in Barnegat history," Groome said of the no-hitter. Groome's pitch count was supposed to be 75 pitches, and he had thrown 78 through the first six frames. While it would have made sense for Groome to leave the game, he wanted to come out for the seventh. He was confident in his ability to finish things off.
"I just told (coach Dan McCoy) that I wanted to go the distance," Groome said. "I was feeling great. My fastball was dead on and had some movement."
Groome was dominant in his season-opening start last week, but his velocity was down. In his second start, Groome showed elite lefthanded velocity. At least one scout had Groome's fastball up to 97 mph in the first inning, though others had 96 or 95 as his peak velocity. He pitched consistently at 89-94 throughout the outing, showing sink or arm-side run at times.
The lefthander showed excellent command, navigating the strike zone well, and finding the home plate umpire's strike zone early in the game. Groome was able to pitch above the hands for chase swings, and he clipped the glove side corner against lefthanded hitters for called strikes.
"I always try to change the eye level, whether it’s in, out, up, down. I mean, it's a critical thing," Groome said of his location.
Groome's curveball also showed potential, though the consistency of the pitch will be a key developmental focus for him as he aims to climb through the minor leagues, assuming he chooses to sign out of high school instead of fulfilling his Vanderbilt commitment. At times, the pitch looks like a fastball out of his hand, before taking a sharp right turn and diving toward the ground, as if there is a powerful magnet pulling it to home plate. At other times, the pitch looped upward out of his hand, or backed up. He sometimes releases the pitch early, too.
While the fire-and-ice nature of Groome's curveball prevents a present plus grade, his extreme youth (he turns 18 in August) and the ease and potential repeatability of his delivery point to a future 60 offering, if not higher.
The southpaw did not throw a changeup on Monday, though he has flashed feel for the pitch in the past.
Groome's final pitch of the game was a 94-mph fastball. In the sixth inning, he threw one fastball at 87-mph, though his comfort zone was in the low 90s throughout the game. This was a significant improvement over Groome's first start, where his velocity declined quickly.
The crowd of scouts at the game was much thinner than the crowd at last week's start, but there were still about 30 scouts on hand, including many from teams picking in the top 10.
The draft is roughly two months away. Groome's sterling performance stands alongside an excellent start to the spring for Kansas righthander Riley Pint, who has shown an elite fastball and promising offspeed stuff. Florida lefthander A.J. Puk is also in the mix up high, but left a start a couple weeks ago due to back spasms, and missed his most recent start. Groome is still a strong candidate to be taken first overall.