With a fastball that hits 100 MPH, any hitter would not enjoy facing Harvard-Westlake High School’s Lucas Giolito. A graduated senior, Giolito was drafted 16th overall by the Washington Nationals in Monday night’s MLB First-Year Player Draft, and boy does he look good on the mound.
Standing at 6-3, 230 lbs, he’s no Clayton Kershaw in terms of size, however, he has drawn comparisons to Justin Verlander. Both can top out at 100 MPH on their fastball, and both display impeccable command, making hitters look foolish with their offspeed/breaking balls.
Giolito’s delivery seems like it’s still up for debate. At times, he will hardly bring his leg up, and at times, it’ll be higher than his belt. He has a very slow windup, and his release point is almost perpendicular to the ground; not touching his ear, but straighter than the traditional ¾ arm slot. This overhand approach makes breaking balls more deceiving and also gives them a little more pop.
Giolito has three top-notch pitches: the fastball, the “game-ready” changeup, as described by Baseball News Hound, and then a breaking ball who’s name is yet to be determined. Some call it a changeup, some call it a slider, but it almost looks like a slurve with abnormal life.
Though his fastball is lethal, his “slurve” as it was just declared, is by far his most dangerous pitch. In the future Giolito will likely sit in the 94-97 MPH range on his fastball, and it won’t be as easy to throw that by big league hitters as it was high school hitters. Therefore he will need to rely more on his offspeed, and his slurve is perhaps as great as I’ve ever seen (with my eyes, I’m sure some old Hall of Famer had a better one). The late life is astounding, as is sweeps and dives at the same time, all while generating a swing despite being a foot outside of the strike zone. Perhaps Stephen Strasburg is not the only Nat that can have a 14 strikeout debut.
All-in-all, this pick was an absolute steal. Some analysts had Giolito as high as second overall on their prospect grades, and he managed to fall all the way to 16th. In fact, Giolito said he was surprised that the Nationals took him, and that he had never even spoken to them prior to being taken.
Though Giolito did battle an injury in high school, I commend Mike Rizzo on taking potential over security with the pick. X-rays were negative, which means Giolito should be fine down the road. The only challenge becomes signing him, as he does have an offer to play at college powerhouse UCLA, and may aim to build on his draft stock for junior or senior year, with eyes on going in the top three come 2015.
Draft Grade: A-