After being limited to just 23 games in 2019, Jordan Groshans still moved up from #67 all the way to #29. How did he pull off such a big jump?
The Blue Jays had some encouraging news when they learned of the new Baseball America prospect rankings (subscription required), and how three of their players fared according to that scouting community. With Nate Pearson (#7), Jordan Groshans (#29), and Simeon Woods Richardson (#61) all moving up the list, and in the latter case appearing for the first time, it was an exciting day for the Blue Jays.
Pearson’s move up should come as no surprise, as he was one of the top minor league pitchers in baseball last year, and should debut sometime in 2020. As for Woods Richardson, we knew there was talent in the 19-year-old’s arm, but it’s very encouraging to see him jump up to #61 at such a young age, as the scouting community is already recognizing his potential.
If there was a surprise (for me), it might have been that Groshans moved all the way up from #67 in 2019, to #29 on the latest version of the rankings. Don’t get me wrong, I think he has huge potential and I’m really excited about his future, but the reason I say I’m surprised is because he only played in 23 games last season while dealing with injury issues. I knew he would still be highly regarded, but I didn’t think he’d move up 38 spots on the list, and it had me wondering why it happened.
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Let’s start with the obvious place, with Groshans’ performance in 2019 while he was on the diamond. He played all 23 games with the Lansing Lugnuts at the Low-A level, and showed why he’s viewed as a potential MLB star someday at just 19 years old. He ended up slashing an impressive .337/.427/.482 while picking up six doubles, two home runs, and 13 over 96 plate appearances, also walking 13 times. It was a small sample size, but he was pretty dominant.
Secondly, there’s also the fact that several players who ranked ahead of him last year made their MLB debuts in 2019, and are now ineligible for the top 100 list. If you have a scan of last year’s top 100 list, you’ll see names that we watched in the big leagues this season such as Brendan McKay, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Kopech, Kyle Wright, Gavin Lux, Dustin May, and more. They didn’t all lose their prospect eligibility, but the point is that simple graduation to the big leagues helped Groshans advance a few spots.
And of course, not every prospect that was highly rated in 2019 is viewed the same way a year later. For example, Forrest Whitley of the Astros was viewed by some folks as the top pitching prospect on the board a year ago, and after his disastrous stint in Triple-A a lot of the shine has worn off of the 22-year-old, even if his future could still be bright. Another example would be Deivi Garcia of the Yankees, who also struggled in Triple-A last season. My guess is Groshans leapfrogged those two and more on his way to #29.
Lastly, prospect status isn’t always about the performance on the field, even if that seems a little counter intuitive. Professional scouts can see potential that us “normies” don’t always see though, and it’s hard to find much of anything negative anywhere about Groshans. That said, he was performing at an elite clip before his foot injury shut him down last season, I just didn’t know if the scouting community would reward him as well as they did with such a small sample size in 2019.
The good news is that Groshans has been looking healthy according to the social media posts he’s shared with fans, and hopefully 2020 can be another big year in his development. He has the potential to be a five-tool player when he arrives in the big leagues, and even after a mostly lost season in 2019, the excitement over his potential hasn’t waned a bit.