Nationals Prospects Giolito & Cole Named In MLB Top 100
On Thursday MLB.com unveiled its Top 100 Prospects of 2014 list. The Washington Nationals found two of their own among the ranks. The team’s two top right-handers, Lucas Giolito and A.J. Cole, finished ranked 44th and 69th respectively. Both pitchers are not strangers to this list as Giolito was listed 74th and Cole ranked 90th in the 2013 poll. While it is no secret that Giolito is the prize of the Nationals’ farm system, it is more likely that Cole will reach the big leagues first.
Entering the 2013 MLB draft Lucas Giolito was widely regarded as the top young right-handed pitching prospect around. However, injury concerns caused him to fall right into Mike Rizzo’s lap at 16th overall. At 6’6″ and 225 pounds, Giolito had the makings of a front end of the rotation starter, but problems with his UCL scared away many of the top teams. This, of course, did not bother Rizzo one bit and he grabbed up the young prodigy as quickly as he could. Arm concerns have never bothered Rizzo; especially in someone as young as Giolito. It is not far fetched to consider that the Nationals assumed Tommy John surgery was in his future and having the young, powerful rotation they have in place already meant they could afford to properly develop Giolito over the next few years.
When scouts grade out a player they do so on a 20-80 scale. 50 is considered the major league average and every 10 points in either direction is one standard deviation from it. Lucas Giolito already has a grade out of 80 on his fastball, which can zip in anywhere from 94-100 mph without much effort. While he is still growing into his lanky frame, his mechanics are solid and allow him to bump triple digits with relative ease. This size and power allows him to maintain his velocity late into games as well. For his age he has surprisingly solid command of this pitch.
The Harvard-Westlake High School graduate also boasts a sharp, table-dropping curveball that on a scouting scale sits around the 60 mark with the potential to jump up to 70 by the time he hits the big leagues sometime in 2015 or 2016. His change-up is still a work in progress, but once he masters it he could be showcasing three 70’s pitches therefore making him a legitimate ace even with the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, and Doug Fister around.
A.J. Cole is making the minor league rounds with the Nationals for a second time after being shuffled back and forth from the Oakland Athletics as GM’s Billy Beane and Mike Rizzo continue their intriguing relationship. Cole stands 6’4″ and weighs in at roughly 185 pounds and has the potential to be a middle to back end of the rotation starter.
Recent rumblings have the Washington Nationals considering moving the 21 year old into a setup or closer role in the future. While Cole struggles with his release point and secondary pitches, it appears that he figured things out late last year posting a 2.18 ERA and 0.9 WHIP in 45.1 innings with AA Harrisburg. Expect him to reach the big leagues a few months ahead of Giolito in 2015 if all goes according to plan.
While Giolito and Cole are undeniably the darlings of the Washington Nationals farm system, fans must keep their eyes on OF Brian Goodwin and 1B/3B Matt Skole. Skole has the pop necessary to become a bench player on the big club late this season and Goodwin could be a late season call up due to his speed and defensive prowess.