In the aftermath of the community prospect rankings wrapping up last year, I figured I'd do write-ups for each Ranger prospect who finished in the top 25, in the order that they were selected. It was something that seemed to go well, and so I've decided to do this again.
Two caveats about this: First, I have no first-hand information about most of these guys, and for the hard-core prospect-philes out there, you probably know everything that I'll be writing about these players.
Secondly, since I did this last season, a lot of the material is going to be a repeat from last year. I'm going to cut-and-paste certain things from last year, simply because I don't see the need to completely re-invent the wheel in terms of talking about what Martin Perez did in 2008 or something like that. So don't complain about that.
Moving right along, today we are looking at the #9 player in the community prospect rankings, Justin Grimm.
Justin Grimm is a 6'3", 175 lb. righthanded pitcher who the Rangers selected in the 5th round of the 2010 draft and signed to a well-above-slot bonus of $825,000 (to put this in perspective, supplemental first round pick Mike Olt was signed to a bonus of $717,300). Grimm had been selected in the 13th round of the 2007 draft out of high school by the Boston Red Sox but did not sign, choosing to play for the University of Georgia instead. Baseball America rated Grimm as the #109 prospect in the 2010 draft, praising his athleticism, a fastball that touched 95 mph, and a curve that sometimes graded out as above-average, but noting that his results hadn't matched his potential, as he struggled with his mechanics and command while posting a 5.80 ERA as a collegian.
Like most above-slot players, Grimm was signed too late to pitch in the minors in 2010, and instead made his pro debut in 2011. Grimm started the 2011 season with low-A Hickory, and in 50.1 innings over 9 starts, he posted a 3.40 ERA, striking out 54, walking 18, and allowing 5 home runs. After getting promoted to Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League, Grimm continued to pitch well, putting up a 3.39 ERA in 90.1 innings, with 73 strikeouts, 30 walks, and just 2 homers allowed.
Grimm didn't get a ton of attention in the LSB community rankings last season, ending up at #24 overall, but he got some run as a sleeper prospect heading into the 2012 season, someone with good stuff who was a potential breakout candidate if he got things figured out.
As it turned out, 2012 was a breakout year for Grimm, who started out the season in AA Frisco but ended up getting a midseason callup when the Rangers needed a spot starter, and ended up pitching in AA, AAA and the majors before the season was up. Grimm was terrific in AA, putting up a 1.72 ERA in 83.2 innings. He had less success in AAA, putting up a 4.59 ERA in 51 innings, and in the majors, where he allowed 14 runs over 14 innings in 5 games (including 2 starts). Still, for a 23 year old who hadn't pitched above A-ball prior to 2012, his campaign was definitely a success, and vaulted him up the prospect rankings.
Grimm's repertoire is fastball/curveball/changeup, with the fastball generally being in the low-90s, though it can touch 95-96 mph, and the curveball being a potential plus pitch. His changeup is a work in progress, although Jason Cole says it showed signs of being a plus pitch in 2012. Like a lot of the Rangers' young pitchers, how that third pitch develops will likely determine where Grimm's future lies. If the changeup continues to improve, Grimm can be a major league starter. Otherwise, the fastball and curve alone would make him a viable relief prospect.
Grimm is among the cast of thousands that is vying for the temporary fifth starter job this spring (whoever wins the job will likely just be keeping the spot warm until Colby Lewis returns in May), and he's considered, along with Martin Perez, the favorite for the job. If Grimm doesn't earn a job in the rotation, he could be considered for a bullpen role, as the situation in the Ranger pen is pretty unsettled; otherwise, he'll go to AAA, and will be one of the pitchers the Rangers are counting on to provide them for depth should they need help in the bullpen or have a hole to fill in the rotation.
Grimm's ceiling is as a mid-rotation starter, a guy who can give a team innings in the rotation while being more than a league average innings eater. If Grimm can continue to build on the success he had in 2012, he's someone who should be able to carve out a lengthy MLB career.