Lucas Giolito: Checking in on the Nationals’ No. 1 prospect


One of the benefits of the offseason is that it gives us the opportunity to reflect on last season and look forward to next year and beyond – a future that will undoubtedly be shaped not only by the team’s current big league stars, but also by the youngsters that are working their way up the minor league ladder.

Over the last several weeks, we have been counting down the Nationals’ top-10 prospects (as ranked by and breaking down what they have accomplished so far in their young professional careers. We have also predicted if and when they will be ready to contribute at the big league level and where we expect to see them in 2015.

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Some of these names are well-known throughout the baseball world, while others are players that you may never have heard of before. Regardless of how prominent these players are in the ever-evolving world of the game’s rising stars, all of them will have an impact on the future of the Nationals and it’s important to monitor their progress as they continue on their path to the big leagues.

Earlier this week we continued our series with outfielder Michael Taylor and right-hander A.J. Cole, the team’s No. 3 and No. 2 prospects, respectively. Today we will wrap our series with the Nationals’ No. 1 prospect, right-hander Lucas Giolito.

Throughout this series, we have looked at some of the team’s prospects that have the potential to become superstars at the big league level. While all of those prospects have that potential, perhaps the most exciting player on the list is Giolito, who many believe could develop into one of the best pitchers in the game.

“I know I have things I need to work on,” Giolito told “So, I’m never satisfied. It’s good that I throw hard and my curveball breaks a lot, but there is more to it than that. I definitely want to improve on the finer aspects of pitching.”

When the Nationals selected Giolito with the 16th overall pick in the 2012 First Year Player Draft, they knew they were taking a risk on a pitcher who would most likely need elbow surgery. Two years later, it’s clear that the Nationals made the right decision as the 20-year-old has developed into the team’s top prospect and one of the game’s rising young stars.

Giolito, who suffered a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow during his senior year of high school, underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after the Nationals signed him with a $2.925 million signing bonus. After the surgery, however, Giolito was once again the dominant pitcher who likely would’ve been the top pick in the draft had it not been for the injury.

In his return to the mound last season, Giolito split time between the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League team and rookie ball in Auburn, posting a 1.96 ERA and striking out 39 batters in 36 2/3 innings.

While Giolito dazzled in his return last year, he was even better in 2014. The right-hander spent the entire season at Class-A Hagerstown, going 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA in 20 starts. Although he was shut down after just 98 innings due to the team’s strict Tommy John policy, completing his first full season after the surgery was a big step for Giolito and the right-hander should rack up more innings in 2015.

In the last two years, Giolito has evolved from a risky first-round draft pick to one of the game’s most promising pitching prospects. The right-hander is not only the Nationals’ top prospect, but he’s also considered the No. 8 prospect in all of baseball. While he only has one full professional season under his belt, he already made a name for himself in the minors with his performance last season, which earned him a spot in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

Needless to say, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Giolito.

The right-hander has recovered nicely from the surgery and his fastball is back to its pre-injury velocity. Along with a filthy 12-to-6 curve, which is as good as any in the majors, Giolito is working on a changeup – a pitch that could make his 100 mph fastball even more devastating for hitters. The right-hander’s 6-foot-6 frame also helps, allowing him to pitch from a tremendous angle.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Giolito is that he’s just 20 years old, and at the end of the day, he’s still learning how to pitch. The right-hander has yet to reach his full potential and it’ll be interesting to see how he continues to develop over the next few years.

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Of all the prospects on this list, Giolito is likely the most important for the Nationals’ future. While we probably won’t see him contribute at the big league level in 2015, he could be ready to join the rotation as early as 2016. And with Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister scheduled to hit free agency next winter, Giolito’s development becomes even more important.

It’s been five years since the Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg, and in Giolito, they may have found yet another pitching talent for the ages. Only time will tell if the right-hander will continue to develop into the pitcher the Nationals expect him to be. But right now, the future looks bright for Giolito and the Nationals.

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