Speed bump aside, Jordan Groshans has been hitting on all cylinders in Low-A Lansing. Currently on the shelf with a stress injury to the navicular bone of his left foot — his return is still TBD — the 12th-overall pick in last year’s draft was slashing .337/427/.482 when he went down in mid-May. Few question his ceiling. The 19-year-old shortstop is ranked fifth in a strong Blue Jays farm system.
Groshans brings more than tools to the table. According to Gil Kim, Toronto’s Director of Player Development, character and drive were major selling points for the Magnolia, Texas product when last summer’s draft rolled around.
“Area scout Brian Johnston, cross-checker C.J. Ebarb, and our amateur department as a whole did a nice job of identifying his talent,” said Kim. “They were also convicted that the strong makeup would allow him to continuously improve and to impact his teammates. That’s the part that we’re most excited about. He’s always asking questions, he’s open to feedback, and he’s always engaging in conversations with our staff about how to get better. Jordan has been fun to work with because he burns to be great.”
The youngster feels that his biggest strides have come in the plate-discipline department; the numbers back that up. His 13.5% walk rate with the Lugnuts is nearly double last year’s 7.3% in rookie-ball. Easing his foot off the gas pedal has been a key.
“I was fresh out of high school and trying to make a big impression,” Groshans told me shortly before being injured. “I was really pull-happy, and swinging at a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have been swinging at. My strike-zone judgement has improved a lot.”
Along with slowing down his engine, the youngster has quieted his leg kick. The Josh Donaldson swing comps he heard going into the draft may have been music to his ears, but his timing mechanism nonetheless needed to be toned down. Groshans made the adjustment on his own. Recognizing that he was getting too far on his front side, causing him to chase, he lowered the kick and as he explained, “relaxed my body as much as possible.”
Doing a better job of staying back has allowed his right-handed stroke to propel pitches into the opposite-field gap. Kim pointed that out as a strength when assessing Groshans’ development.
“His strength is with the bat, and we were encouraged to see his ability to control the strike zone, and square up the fastball, translate from rookie-ball to Low-A” said Kim. “Jordan has continued to use the whole field, showing good power to right-center field.”
As Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel noted in our Blue Jays Top Prospects writeup, the 6-foot-4 infielder has “plus raw power projection.” But while he’s fully capable of catching balls out front and driving them in the air pull-side, that’s not currently his M.O.
“I try to let it get as deep as I can,” Groshans explained. “That’s why I’ve gone middle, middle-away a lot this year. I get in the very back of the box, to give myself as much time as possible to read the pitch. If it’s a fastball away, I’ll let it get deep and throw the bat out there. I’ll react to it. I trust my hands. I’m fortunate in that I have quick hands, so most guys aren’t going to blow the ball by me.”
Groshans’ hands are likewise an asset in the field, as is his plus arm. Where those tools are ultimately utilized remains to be seen. Many project him as a third baseman — and he did see time at the hot corner last season — although all of his 2019 defensive appearances have come as a shortstop. Lansing manager Dallas McPherson is a former big-league infielder, and with his tutelage Groshans — this according to Kim — has “improved his footwork and body positioning on routine ground balls.”
The erstwhile Magnolia Bulldog isn’t overly concerned about his future position. His top priority is to do damage at the dish.
“I don’t really care,” Groshans said of his defensive preference. “Shortstop. Third base. Left field. Right field. I mean, I’m working as hard as I can every day at short, but at the end of the day, if it’s not in the books for me to stay there, then it’s not in the books. Wherever they put me, my plan is to rake. That’s how I’ve always gone about it. I’m going to go out there and hit the best I can, for power and for average.”
Once his foot heals — Kim said he’ll be re-evaluated mid-month — Groshans should be back to doing both. When you’re a teenager with some of the best numbers in the Midwest League, and a first-rounder to boot, there’s little question that you can rake.
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.