When Alec Grosser went to bed Friday night, after not being selected in the opening 10 rounds of Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft, the T.C. Williams senior pitcher was convinced that he would follow through on his commitment to play at George Mason University.
Then the phone rang the next morning, about an hour before the 11th through 40th rounds were to commence. The Atlanta Braves, a team high on the right-hander since his breakout performance at the Commonwealth Games last summer, told Grosser and his father, Saul, that they planned to select him that day in the 11th round.
Goodbye GMU, hello pro ball. Grosser plans to sign a professional contract on Saturday, after his high school graduation ceremony.
So instead of playing at least three years of college baseball about 20 minutes from home, the second-team All-Met will begin to chase his major league aspirations on a rookie league team in the Orlando, Fla., area. He leaves Wednesday.
“Just talking with my dad that Friday night, I was set on going to Mason, and I was definitely excited about that,” Grosser said. “He said, ‘You know, a team might want to do something tomorrow, but don’t get your hopes up.'”
Grosser was particularly pleased to hear from the Braves because of area scout Gene Kerns’s interest in him in the past year, their track record of developing pitchers and the fact that some of their minor league teams are on the East Coast, including advanced Class A team Lynchburg.
“In the overall picture a year ago, I definitely wouldn’t have imagined this happening,” Grosser said. “But it’s also good, looking into the future, that I’ve come this far in a year. If I continue to work hard, who knows where I might be in a couple years from now.”
An ascent through the Atlanta organization will not come easily. The Braves chose 19 pitchers, including 14 in the top 22 rounds, in this year’s draft, and of course there already are dozens of other young hurlers trying to establish themselves in the system.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Grosser, the 343rd overall pick, wants to polish his mechanics, gain size and strength and try to establish more reliable command of his off-speed pitches. This season, he struck out 68 batters in 54 innings and walked 21, and allowed 10 earned runs.
Here is what Baseball America said of Grosser in its pre-draft rankings, in which the publication had him as the 159th-best prospect:
A quarterback for the high school immortalized in “Remember The Titans,” Grosser has emerged as a draft prospect relatively late in the process. He has limited pitching experience, but with a 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame and low-90s fastball, he has upside. He can run his fastball up to 94 mph with good sink and flashes secondary stuff that could be at least average. His delivery needs work, but most scouts think he just needs professional instruction. His stuff can vary significantly in a game, with his fastball sitting 89-90 mph early and then ramping up to 93 or better. He shows aptitude and excellent makeup, so most evaluators think he’ll be able to develop once he gets into a professional pitching program. He is committed to George Mason and considered signable, so a team could take a chance on him in the fifth round.
Grosser credits his throwing program with Northern Virginia pitching instructors Rob Riley and Dan Olds for helping to put him in position to be drafted in a fairly high round by an organization as respected as the Braves.
“I’m really excited,” Grosser said, “and I’m ready to go to work.”