Down on the Farm: Checking in on the Washington Nationals’ top-5 prospects

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Jul 12, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; USA pitcher Lucas Giolito throws against the World Team in the first inning during the All Star Futures Game at Great American Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1: Lucas Giolito

Right-hander Lucas Giolito is the crowning jewel of the Washington Nationals’ farm system. Giolito is not only the team’s No. 1 overall prospect, but he’s also the best pitching prospect in all of baseball.

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 drafted him in the first round and signed him with a $2.925 million signing bonus in 2012. 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 in 2013, 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. Not surprisingly, Giolito 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.

In 2015, three years removed from the surgery, Giolito has continued to improve on the mound and appears to be on the fast track to the big leagues. In 58 2/3 innings for High-A Potomac this season, the right-hander is 3-4 with a 2.76 ERA and 76 strikeouts.

The right-hander’s dominance this season earned him his second career invitation to the Futures Game, where he showed the entire baseball world just how talented he is. Giolito pitched two scoreless  innings against the best prospects in the game, giving Nationals fans a glimpse of what they might see from him on a big league mound in the not-so-distant future.

Based on Giolito’s success at Potomac, there’s a good chance we’ll see him at Double-A Harrisburg and maybe even Syracuse later this year. Regardless of where he goes next, it’s looking more and more like Giolito’s final destination could be a top-of-the-rotation role with the Nationals. And although he still has to make his way up the Nationals’ farm system, there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing him in a Nationals uniform at some point in the near future.

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