Name: Justin Grimm
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: August 16, 1988
Acquired: 2010 Amateur Draft, 5th round
Justin Grimm has many of the key assets that scouts look for in a pitching prospect––tall frame, athleticism, strong arm, and the ability to spin a potential quality breaking ball.
The Rangers were able to snag the hard-throwing righty in the fifth round of last year's MLB Draft, but they certainly didn't pay fifth-round money. Grimm signed just prior to the mid-August deadline for supplemental first-round money––a reported $825,000 bonus.
Grimm's powerful arm caught the eyes of scouts in high school, when he was selected by Boston in the 13th round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He eventually chose to attend the University of Georgia and struggled in his freshman campaign before coming back to post a 4.15 earned-run average in 15 starts during his sophomore year.
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound hurler flashed his first-round potential with Cotuit of the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2009. Grimm made eight starts with the club, posting a 2.84 ERA while walking 14 and fanning 47 in 44.1 innings.
Grimm returned to school and scuffled through a difficult 2010 campaign for the Bulldogs, which included a 16-37 overall record and a cumulative 8.51 team ERA.
The Tennessee native ended up leading his UGA club in most pitching categories, though he was just 3-7 with a 5.49 ERA. Grimm logged 77 innings and gave up 82 hits, walking 35 and striking out 73.
Despite the less-than-ideal results last season, most pre-draft publications listed Grimm as a potential first- or second-round pick because of his ability. The Rangers were able to snag him later than expected, though they still paid early-round money.
After the 2010 minor league season came to a conclusion, Grimm was finally able to get his feet wet by pitching at Fall Instructional League. He hadn't taken the mound in a competitive situation since pitching eight innings to defeat the University of Kentucky on May 20. He made his instructs debut on September 22, hurling a scoreless inning.
Among the primary reasons for Grimm's struggles at UGA were his inconsistent mechanics. Perhaps not surprisingly, Grimm made mechanics a high priority at instructs.
"My main focus has been to slow things down and gain control of my body, which was very successful for me," Grimm said after instructs. "Also I've been working on keeping my shoulders and head going toward the catcher. I still kind of struggle with a ‘head-jerk' in my delivery, but it has gotten a lot better, which also helps my pitches stay in the zone a little more."
As Grimm's mechanics improve, so will his command. And given his already solid fastball-breaking ball mixture, that should lead to promising results.
Because his changeup and command were under-developed in college, some scouts believe Grimm fits best as a hard-throwing reliever. Of course, with a good body and a lively fastball, he has a good base of tools for a starting pitching prospect.
"I think (my future role) is up in the air right now," Grimm said. "I've heard that maybe I'll start as a reliever and then convert to starter later on, but I don't worry too much about either role.
"Which ever role will get me to the big leagues quicker is the role I would like to fill. I will leave that decision up to the team, but I believe that I could do either role."
Also See: Grimm looking for consistency (August 30, 2010)
Grimm getting control of mechanics (October 18, 2010)
Mark Anderson's Top 20 Rangers Prospects (February 14, 2011)
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball: Grimm's fastball sat between 92-94 mph (touching 95) at Fall Instructional League, and that's about where he worked during his junior season of college ball. He has bumped up to 97 mph in short spurts out of the bullpen. Despite his 6-foot-4 body, Grimm didn't always throw on a downhill plane at UGA, causing his heater to straighten out and hang up in the zone. As a result, he was far more hittable than he should be given the stuff. The prospect has good control but must tighten up his command. His mechanics took a definite step forward at instructs, where he did a better job of working down in the zone, giving his fastball a little more life.
Other Pitches: The 22-year-old featured both a 12-to-6 curveball and a slider in college, but he has since ditched the curve in favor of the low-80s slider. Grimm feels the slider is not only easier to command, but that it also looks more like his fastball coming out of the hand. The pitch shows plus potential with sharp, late break and some tilt, although––like with his fastball––the command needs to improve.
Grimm flashed a potential average changeup in the Cape Cod League during the summer of '09, but he stopped throwing it when he returned to UGA last season––a decision he says he regrets. The righty has indicated that he'd like to make his under-developed third pitch more of a focal point in 2011.
Projection: Though he has well above-average stuff, Grimm posted just a 5.48 ERA during his three years of college due to inconsistent mechanics that led to spotty command of his entire arsenal. But many scouts believe the issues are correctable, and Grimm has already made some progress. His solid athleticism should help him repeat his mechanics down the line. Grimm's future role should spark plenty of debate, but it'll ultimately be decided by his ability to command the ball and mix in a usable changeup. He has the pure ceiling of a mid-rotation starter or late-inning reliever. And while there's still plenty of work to be done, he is off to a good start.
2011 Outlook: If Grimm begins to harness his mechanics and command, his plus raw stuff could help him fly through the lower levels. His future role may currently be up in the air, but the Rangers will likely work him as a starting pitcher for the time being in order to maximize his innings and opportunity for development. Because he's yet to throw an official pitch in professional ball, Grimm figures to break spring training in what will be a crowded Single-A Hickory pitching staff. If he has success, though, he may be in Myrtle Beach before long.
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