Nationals minor league spotlight: Lucas Giolito

Nationals minor league spotlight: Lucas Giolito
November 25, 2013, 11:00 am
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Age on Opening Day 2014: 19

How acquired: Draft (1st round), June 2012

Position: Starting pitcher

Prospect Rank: No. 1 in Nats’ org. (Baseball America)

2013 Team/Level: GCL Nationals (Rookie), Auburn Doubledays (Short-Season A)

2013 Stats: 2-1, 11 G, 1.96 ERA, 36.2 IP, 28 H, 9 R, 8 ER, HR, 14 BB, 39 SO, 2 HBP, 5 WP, 1.145 WHIP (two teams)

2013 Analysis: Lucas Giolito made his post-Tommy John return in 2013 on July 3 with the Gulf Coast League Nationals and managed 11 total starts on the season before calling it a year. He pitched with the GCL Nats eight times before joining the Auburn Doubledays of the New York-Penn League for his final three games. Giolito was a standout in both leagues and compiled a 1.96 ERA across the two affiliates. Giolito left the GCL Nats before they won the title, but was their best pitcher while he was there. Baseball America named him the top prospect in the Gulf Coast League at season’s end. 

Giolito’s return saw him come back with the high 90s velocity that made him a first round pick. Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu had seen him pitch in the GCL before coming to Washington and said he was impressed by the 19-year-old’s fastball, particularly how much movement he gets on it. He described it as a four-seam fastball that behaves like a two-seamer.

2014 Outlook: Giolito’s fastball may already look MLB-ready, but his overall command will have to improve. All it takes is one glance at his numbers to tell he was a bit erratic last season. The 6-foot-6 righty had five wild pitches in just 36 2/3 innings of work. That isn’t quite Henry Rodriguez status but, for a comparison, only Dan Haren and Stephen Strasburg had more on the big league Nats in 2013 and they each threw at least 165 innings. Giolito also walked players too often. 14 walks with 39 strikeouts breaks out to a 2.78 SO/BB rate. That will have to get better.

Giolito won’t turn 20 until July so there’s plenty of time for him to develop. It is impressive how quickly he restored his status as a top prospect in 2013, a testament to how well he recovered from the surgery. Now Giolito can enter 2014 with a likely limit of 160 innings and set himself up to possibly reach the majors in 2015. Expect him to start in Single-A come April and, if he continues to pitch well, reach Double-A by the end of the year.