Michael Grove was added to the 40-man roster in November. Grove was a second-round pick in 2018 coming out of West Virginia. The right-handed pitcher was protected by the Rule 5 Draft when he was added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster during the 2021 offseason and has been spending his spring on the pitcher’s mound flashing his improving arsenal featuring big velocity, better movement, and strong command. Grove has been a big standout in camp this year. He faced Cody Bellinger, Austin Barnes, and Max Muncy in a backfield BP session in which he did not give up a hit. Pair that with a scoreless inning and two strikeouts in one inning during his only Cactus League appearance.
It is no secret that the Dodgers are comfortable with drafting pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery. The Dodgers’ depth throughout the minor league system has allowed them to snag talented arms and wait for them to progress to full health. Grove underwent Tommy John surgery in May of 2017 and did not see any action until he tossed 51.2 innings in 21 starts for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in 2019. As his progression progressed, Grove was still blowing hitters away reaching 73 strikeouts on the season even though he saw a drop in velocity.
Dealing With Tommy John Surgery
Before Tommy John surgery, Grove’s fastball had been clocked up to 96 mph but coming back from surgery it was being clocked consistently at 91-93 mph as he continued to build his strength back. Grove worked with Connor McGuiness, the Quakes’ pitching coach, as he rehabbed. McGuiness worked with Grove on his delivery mechanics and arm action as Grove found himself back where he wanted to be sitting at 94-95 mph with the fastball even topping out at 97 mph.
Up until late July of 2021 Grove was sitting at 10.07 ERA, 11.1 K/9, 7.5 BB/9 but from then on, and with his mechanical improvements he was at 4.10 ERA, 11.3 K/9, 1.7 BB/9. Tommy John is a major procedure, and everyone has a different path to recovery. Grove worked on his mechanical consistency resulting in improved command as a lower arm slot led to better control as well. A global pandemic may have halted Grove’s breakout campaign, but it very well could have been a blessing in disguise as it allowed him to come back an even more rested pitcher with a determined mindset. In 2022, Grove has found himself reaching 99 mph on his fastball with a pair of high-spin breaking balls.
Taking a look back at some of the progress Michael Grove made, going from 92-94 in the first 3 months to 95-97 in the last 2 is no accident. This is June 16th vs July 31st, pause is at foot strike, note the significant change in spine angle and how much longer he stays closed: pic.twitter.com/PGWEnnwkRQ
— Josh Thomas (@jokeylocomotive) October 11, 2021
Grove’s ability to locate his fastball in all four quadrants of the zone is one thing making him so effective. A 99 mph fastball with solid carry and life gets opposing hitters to swing and miss when located up in the zone. Grove is an athletic right-hander that uses his motion to locate his pitches. Grove works with a quick motion in which the glove and ball both go above his head and are accompanied by a quick leg kick.
He is unique because most pitchers use their landing spots to locate the ball whereas he has an inverted W meaning he picks up the target during the cocking phase of a pitch. When Grove is in his windup, he lifts both his elbows above his shoulder creating this inverted W. This has allowed him to gain more extension as he ends up facing slightly toward the first base side. He possesses good deception in which a batter will struggle with seeing the ball. Grove works well off the deception he creates.
His generic 12-6 curveball with a strong shape is often used early in the count to get ahead compared to using it later in the count to generate weak contact or over-the-top swings. His slider is used exclusively for right-handed batters. He uses a sharp slider with above-average vertical movement acting as if it is a power slurve rather than a sweeping slider. His changeup has personally been interesting to watch develop as it may have elite potential just like the fastball/curveball combo. It occasionally shows good fade and has excellent sinking action but will lose that action when he overthrows it.
When he throws the changeup optimally it shows good depth. He has started to show a grasp for the pitch when it was once lacking. Grove dominantly throws it against left-handed batters, but the confidence is growing, and it is giving him another usable offering. Personally speaking, Grove’s fastball has regained its explosiveness and is a true strikeout pitch because of the exceptionally high spin rate it accumulates. His slider is equally electric and reminds me of a split-finger fastball.
Michael Grove projects as a solid option for a big-league starter. The lack of command was holding him back and may have ultimately pushed him to the bullpen, but he is flashing signs of excitement. He has the stuff to be successful whether he is in the rotation or in the bullpen because he knows how to optimize what he has to offer. Grove was very tough to hit prior to his injury and was holding his stuff late into starts, two things he has progressed on.
Grove was placed on the shelf for nearly two years but has continued to show the athleticism, plus fastball, plus slider, and electric spin rate the Dodgers originally drafted him for. The only question remaining is a question that has surfaced since the Dodgers snagged Grove in the second round of the 2018 draft. Will Grove be groomed into a long-term rotation arm or a high-leverage/late-inning bullpen option? Michael Grove’s profile is more undefined than some of the bigger named pitching prospects for the Dodgers, but he is not far from seeing daylight.