Washington Nationals Prospect Profile: Lucas Giolito

by Matthew Roberts | Posted on Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
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The Washington Nationals enter this year’s spring training with hands-down the best starting rotation in the majors with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, and the blockbuster pick up of the off-season Max Scherzer. As if that was not enough, Tanner Roark has no place to go but the bullpen despite posting a 2.85 ERA and 1.09 WHIP over 198 innings last year for the Nationals. It is apparent as we start 2015 that the Nationals have no room for a youth movement on their starting rotation, nor should they need to. But, after the successful full-time promotion of Anthony Rendon last year, the Nationals are looking at an embarrassment of riches with their best prospect and Baseball America’s No. 7 prospect, RHP Lucas Giolito.

Giolito, drafted out of high school at 16th overall in 2012 by the Nationals, is a man-child. At age 20, Giolito checks in a 6’6″, 230lb. Giolito had an opportunity to be the number 1 pick in 2012 but a UCL issue in his right elbow during his senior year of high school saw his stock drop enough for the Nationals to take him in the middle of the first round. After undergoing Tommy John surgery shortly after signing, Giolito made a handful of starts the next year in 2013 and played his first full season last year.

If Giolito’s professional debut in 2014 was any indication of the future, his draft pedigree was dead-on accurate. Over 98 innings with Class-A Hagerstown (Giolito’s innings were limited by the notoriously cautious Nationals) Giolito struck out 110 batters with a 2.20 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, a 10.1K/9 and an impressive 2.6BB/9. Giolito was in such a groove last year that for one start last year he pitched without one of his three plus-pitches, his curveball, for the entire outing. Relying on the other two plus-pitches Giolito has been blessed with, a mid 90s fastball and a change-up, Giolito struck out six over five shutout innings, allowing just two hits and two walks.

The real test will be this year as Giolito is expected to open the season at least at Double-A (where he likely would have finished last year if not for the overly cautious nature of the Nationals) and will be expected to pitch a career high in innings. While the Nationals sport the best rotation now, both Fister and Zimmermann are free agents after this season, with Gonzalez a free agent after 2016, the Nationals should begin the grooming process now for Giolito to begin to contribute at least by the middle of 2016. If Giolito develops as expected and performs to the scouting pedigree, the Nationals are as primed as any team to remain a pitching force for years to come.

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Matthew Roberts
About the Author

Matthew cut his teeth on baseball during $2 Bleacher Wednesdays at the old Arlington Stadium in the 1980's and has loved the Texas Rangers ever since. When he's not teaching his young son to throw a wicked circle change, he enjoys the six month friendly rivalry with his wife and her precious Oakland A's. Follow him on Twitter @ifithasballs.

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