30 Prospects in 30 Days: Lucas Giolito, Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals lost two starting pitchers this offseason when they decided not to retain Jordan Zimmerman, who signed with the San Francisco Giants, and Doug Fister, who is still a free agent but is unlikely to return to DC. These two pitchers were key pieces to the rotation that many were calling the best ever prior to this past season, and the Nationals let them walk just like that. They’re likely to let Stephen Strasburg walk next offseason as well. It seems crazy to do this, but the Nationals have plenty of pitching depth in their farm system. Most importantly, they have Lucas Giolito, who is considered to be the best pitching prospect in all of baseball (with Julio Urias right behind him).
Giolito was considered to be a top pick in the 2012 First Year Player Draft, though his stock slid when injury questions arose about his throwing arm, which had a partially torn ligament in it. The Nationals couldn’t pass up Giolito at #16, so they took the gamble. Shortly after, Giolito underwent Tommy John Surgery and didn’t pitch again for over a year. However, Giolito silenced all the critics when he made his return to the mound, as he posted a combined 1.96 ERA between Rookie and Low Class-A ball. Since he returned as the season was winding down, Giolito logged just 36.2 innings, though he fanned 39 batters, proving to everyone that his swing-and-miss stuff hadn’t vanished after the surgery.
- Ranked #3 on Keith Law’s midseason “Top 50 Prospects” list
- Rated #3 on MLB.com’s “Top 100 Prospects” list
- Rated #3 on SI.com’s prospect list
When Giolito is on the mound, he absolutely dominates. As a junior in High School, Giolito struck out 78 batters in 70.1 innings, pitching to a 1.00 ERA while tallying three complete game shutouts. As a senior, Giolito was cruising along with a .84 ERA until he tore the ligament in his elbow. However, Giolito’s numbers have translated well to professional baseball. This past season, Giolito posted a 3.15 ERA while logging a career-high 117 innings pitched. Giolito struck out 131 batters, good for a 10.1 K/9, while walking 2.8 batters per nine innings. It’s important to remember that Giolito has less experience than the other players he’s playing with, as he missed a year due to the TJ surgery. However, he’s just 21 years old, and there’s a good chance that he’s in the majors before this season is over.
What will Giolito be in the future? There are whisperings that 2016 will be the year that Giolito makes his major league debut. One thing is immediately clear, the Nationals view Giolito as an ace that will front a starting rotation with Max Scherzer for years to come. However, he still needs some seasoning before coming to the majors, so it wouldn’t be crazy if we saw him spend the entire season in the minors, with him opening 2017 as a member of the starting rotation.
The upside for Giolito is huge, as he can be a true #1 starter once he settles in at the major league level. If for whatever reason he doesn’t work out as a starter, his powerful fastball plus his curveball would be a deadly combination at the back end of a bullpen.
What can we expect from Giolito this year? He has yet to pitch in Triple-A, so he would need to prove himself at that level before he reaches the majors. I expect him to reach Triple-A by June, and from then on we will be hearing rumors every day about his possible promotion to the big leagues. We might expect Giolito to struggle a bit when he reaches the majors, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him dominate from the get-go.
Fun fact to impress your friends: This is awesome. Giolito’s grandfather played George Costanza’s father-in-law (Susan’s father) on ‘Seinfeld’.