The Crest of the Nats’ Wave: RHP Lucas Giolito
In 2009 the Washington Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg first overall in the first-year player draft, and with the tenth overall pick they took Drew Storen as compensation for failing to sign 2008 first-rounder Aaron Crow. The next year, they surprised no-one by taking Bryce Harper first overall. The following year Anthony Rendon, considered some to be the top offensive talent in the draft, fell to the Nats with the sixth overall pick. With a compensation pick received from the White Sox by way of voodoo magic, they also took RHP Alex Meyer with the 23rd overall pick and then used their own supplemental pick to take Brian Goodwin with the 34th pick. With the signing of Raphael Soriano to be their closer in 2013 costing them their first-round pick, the Nationals ended up having one last first-rounder in 2012 that should bear it’s fruit on the tail end of the Nationals quest to becoming great; They took RHP Lucas Giolito.
Strasburg went on to have one of the most auspicious debuts the game has ever seen, striking out 14 Pirates in 7 innings, including the last 7 he faced, in June of 2010. Storen has become a fixture in the Washington bullpen, a hard-thrower with a 3.26 career FIP to go along with 55 saves back before the team was paying through the nose for a proven closer. Harper needs no introduction, “disappointing” in his sophomore year, according to critics, with a “mere” 3.8 fWAR in 118 games after putting up one of the best 19 year old seasons in history the year prior. Rendon had an excellent debut last year, accruing 1.5 fWAR in only 98 games. He has a lot of room to grow with the bat based on his prospect pedigree, which could see him earning a ton of value next year when paired with his already-remarkable defense. Alex Meyer is a pitcher we’ve profiled here before, and is currently amongst the top prospects in a very strong Twins’ system. Brian Goodwin was listed by Fangraphs as the team’s top prospect going into 2013. The Nationals, through incredibly shrewd drafting in the first round, have created a wave of talent that is currently swelling into their Major League team. The wave is about to crest, and with the graduation of Rendon and the trade of Meyer for CF Denard Span, the bulk of their fabled talent is currently rushing into the highest level of the organization.
After a precipitous drop on draft boards in June of 2012 due to a sore elbow, the pitcher many top evaluators considered to be the draft’s most talented player was taken 16th overall by the Washington Nationals in the first round. Lucas Giolito and his insane heat (he touched a hundred in the ill-fated showcase where he strained his elbow) was being discussed as the top overall talent before a strain and eventual Tommy John Surgery took all of his 2012 and the bulk of his 2013. Coming into the 2013 season, the big righty was a major unknown. Having thrown all of two professional innings and basically running on the fumes off his draft-day reputation, Baseball America still ranked him the #67 overall prospect in baseball going into 2013 despite his limited time on the mound. This season, Giolito gave those who’d had faith in him little reason to regret their decision, putting up an excellent 1.145 WHIP in his 36.2 innings across two levels. He’ll likely begin his age-19 season in high-A while the organization attempts to get a full season’s worth of innings out of him and get a better idea of just how special a package they stumbled onto with the right-hander and his incredible stuff. Anthony Rendon’s 2013 promotion and his own strong season have pushed Giolito into the spotlight as the Nationals’ current top prospect, nothing to sneeze at for a pitcher with a mere 38.2 professional innings and certainly a real preview of just how highly scouts think of the flame-thrower. Here are his full numbers from 2013.
Talent evaluators on draft day were understandably incredibly high on Giolito, this kind of mid-upper velocity from a high school kid with fairly clean mechanics is always going to get noticed, with many comparing the Harvard-Westlake Prep product to noted excellent pitcher Roy Halladay, but they were scared off by the injury. The Halladay comp works, as Giolito throws a magnificently hard fastball that works between 93 and 97 but he’s able to reach back for triple-digit ammo if the situation (or presence scouts) calls for it. He pairs it with a tight, plus power-curve that scouts rave about and a change that reports say are above-average and approaches plus as well,as he improves the separation between it and his heater. Nearly every scouting report or article on Giolito speaks incredibly highly of his makeup and work ethic, which are showing through as post-surgery reports indicate he’s gained back his velocity very quickly after rehab. In his very brief sampling of professional innings, he didn’t walk anyone at an alarming rate which is a good sign for a hard-thrower.
(Video Courtesy: Baseball Instinct on Youtube)
Giolito is listed at 6’6″ and 230lbs, nice and tall without a lot of projection left to do. The first thing you’ll notice about his delivery is his monstrous stride. It causes the occasional problem on landing as it will throw off the timing when he begins to open up, but for the most part adds to his already impressive extension and helps his crazy velocity play up. He comes over the top with his delivery, getting a lot of use out of his 6’6″ frame. When his timing is right, his delivery looks brilliant. If he can get the timing right in his kinetic chain a little more consistently, there is little besides injury that could stop Lucas Giolito from reaching his potential as a #1 starter.
Summary: Big right hander is the last in an amazing streak of first-round-pick success by the Nationals. Huge velocity with good sink, a curve that already flashes plus and a changeup that’s getting there as well have caused a Halladay comp.
Bodes Well: Plus-plus heater, plus curve, potentially plus change/”makeup is off the charts!”/Nats’ draft history
Portends Doom: Tommy John Surgery in 2012/Lack of information due to injury
Expected Arrival: 2016
Arbitrary Prawngrade: A-