LuJames Groover, who most refer to as Gino, transferred to North Carolina State to prove he could perform at college baseball’s highest level. The Wolfpack’s track record in developing talent for the professional ranks also stood out to Groover.
Groover’s decision to leave UNC Charlotte, where he hit .351 in 205 plate appearances as a freshman, and move up to the Power Five level has paid off. He dominated opposing pitching at North Carolina State last season, posting a .364 batting average with 16 doubles, 10 home runs and 47 RBIs in 274 plate appearances.
His performance last season and overall skill set at the plate make him a must-watch player entering this season. Expectations are high for the junior third baseman. He’s a well-regarded prospect for July’s MLB draft, with scouts projecting him as an early-round selection.
“The experience is great,” Groover said. “I have talked to a bunch of teams. It’s really for them to get to know you, and I like to say I’m a lot more than just a baseball player. It’s an opportunity.”
Scouts rave about Groover’s hitting ability. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound right-handed hitter has great bat-to-ball skills, a solid approach and a proven ability to drive the ball with authority to all fields. He is growing into his power, as he currently flashes mostly pull-side power.
“I have always been able to hit,” Groover said. “I learned how to hit at a young age, and I’m growing into my power. It is becoming more consistent. I think that is where I am going to take off. I’ve worked on it, developed it and become consistent with it.”
Defensively, Groover bounced around the diamond in his first two years of college. He has played first base, second base, third base, left field and right field. He has respectable arm strength and fast hands.
Groover mostly played first base last year, but this season, he will be North Carolina State’s starting third baseman, a spot he thrived in the fall.
“Defensively, I have been at third, and a lot of people probably have never seen me over there,” Groover said. “But that is where I’ve spent my whole life, so I think I’m going to turn some heads this year on the defensive end.”
Groover will play a key role in North Carolina State’s success this season. The Wolfpack missed the NCAA Tournament last season with a 36-21 record after advancing to the College World Series in 2021. It snapped a six-year stretch of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
The Wolfpack believe they have the pieces to make it back into the tournament this season. They boast a deep lineup and will have talented right-handed pitcher Sam Highfill back atop their rotation after he missed most of last season with an injury.
“Last year, we got ourselves in trouble a couple of times with our defense,” Groover said. “We had some mishaps and miscues. They came back to get us. If we can improve on that, we will hit, and we have some really good transfer pitchers, along with the people returning. This year, I think we have a really good shot this year to make a run. We are a good and complete all-around team this year.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for eight years. He has interviewed 433 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.