The Dodgers in the second round of the draft went with West Virginia pitcher Michael Grove, who missed the last year after Tommy John surgery. Here is a profile of the right-hander.
What he’s good at right now: Prior to injury in 2017, Grove was one of the better power arms in the Big 12, and still managed to be voted to the conference second team despite missing the back half of conference games. Grove has a quick arm that produces two above average to plus pitches in a 92-95 mph fastball with boring action in on right handers, and a sharpe downer breaking ball that has slider speeds at around 87 mph but resembles a spike curve.
What he can be good at in the future: Grove has an athletic build but isn’t likely to put on much more mass, and his arm strength was already above average prior to injury. He could clean up his breaking ball to form two distinct pitches between a curve and slider, as right now the shapes run together on film.
What does he need to work on: Returning to full health for one, as Grove is a year removed from Tommy John but has taken the longer route to recovery (that’s not to suggest the medical is or was negative). Outside of that, Grove’s numbers suggested a polished pitcher with good strikeout potential, though command of the breaking ball was just average on film, and was not consistently in the zone. It was sharp enough to fool college hitters, but better command in the zone will be needed in the upper minors.
Carry tool: While the slider is currently his plus pitch, his ability to command the fastball above barrels will likely be what makes his path up the ladder a relatively quick one once healthy. With little sink and more late riding life, Grove’s fastball has that “rising” appearance and he commands the ball capably up in the zone.
Biggest weakness: Hard to pinpoint this, but recovery from Tommy John doesn’t always go to plan for everyone, so that will be something to watch. In addition, better command of his breaking ball will better define how high his ceiling can go.
ETA: There’s a chance Grove won’t be able to go full out until instructs, and upon returning to game action will need to be eased along. His stuff profile is too good for hitters in the lower minors, so expect him to move quickly when his stuff and control fully return. Still, 2021 might be an aggressive estimate.
Realistic best case scenario: Grove was very tough to hit prior to injury, and was holding his stuff late into starts, so his past suggests a starter that can reach the sixth and seventh with regularity and a tough combination of high rising fastball and power downer breaking ball to generate strikeouts. Assuming full recovery, he has #2-#3 ceiling upside. The development of a third pitch or refinement of his breaking ball into two pitches might determine whether he sticks as a rotation member or evolves into a power arm out of the pen.
Wrap: Grove was neither ranked nor on my radar for this year’s draft, but after getting the chance to analyze some film on him, I can see what caught their eye. Grove’s dominance in the number two RPI conference would have likely made him an early round selection this year anyway if not for injury, the Dodgers are just showing their optimism once again that Tommy John and related arm injury obstacles can be overcome in their system.
I liken the Grove pick to the Mitchell White pick two years ago, and the two share similarities in build. Grove’s arm action is shorter and he comes from a very high three-quarters slot, which gives his breaking ball more downward bite. His fastball is firmer and with less sink, but has riding life up in the zone, and can hold the lower half of the zone without that movement. The plane at which the pitch comes in from his high delivery should make it tougher to square in the launch angle era.
Grove was able to dominate with the breaking ball as a sophomore but will need to show more command of the pitch, especially when it takes a curveball shape. His velocity on the pitch between 85-87 mph is brutal on college hitters, but more polish pros might lay off the deeper break of the curve that carries the pitch out of the zone.
Grove will likely be best off showing more distinction between a tighter high-80s slider and a the power curve 4-5 ticks below that serve as a chase pitch. Additionally, Grove shows little use for a change up on film, but could stand to develop one for starting at the professional level.
Having gotten the chance now to see Grove, I would likely grade him in the 50 tier, which will put him in the late teens, early 20’s in the Dodgers system rankings, but his upside is comparable to White’s and he could climb into the top ten if he proves healthy and with solid command on his return to the mound. With almost forty picks between this pick and the Dodgers next pick in round three, I’m sure they felt the need now to take a pitcher they rate as a second rounder before another opportunistic team beat them to the punch.