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Minor League Spotlight: Lucas Giolito

Nov 25, 2013, 11:03 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

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.

  1. Faraz Shaikh - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    if he is playing AA ball in August, I won’t mind seeing him in majors for a month as a reliever/spot starter.

    • DaveB - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:35 AM

      Seems wildly optimistic given the pitch count limits (and age). I think a track that is consistent with previous TJ recoveries would be a late start from Florida, start the season in Hagerstown, and get promoted to Potomac if things go well, and then get shut down somewhere in the 120-140 innings range.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:45 AM

        true. very unlikely he sees any ML action in 2014.

      • jd - Nov 25, 2013 at 12:31 PM

        Thanks for introducing some sanity to the discussion.If he end up in Potomac in 2014 and holds his own there it will be tremendous. Then a full year between Potomac and Harrisburg in 2015 (again with an innings limit of about 160).

        If he make it in 2016 at the age of 21 it will still be an extremely quick rise to the majors.

    • Jw - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:52 AM

      You won’t.

  2. Candide - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    14 walks with 39 strikeouts breaks out to a 2.78 SO/BB rate. That will have to get better.

    Nuke LaLoosh, please pick up the white courtesy phone. Nuke LaLoosh…

    • Hiram Hover - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:58 AM

      Well, that seems a bit much. His walk rate is high, no doubt, but it’s not out of this world.

      It works out to about 3.4 BB/9. Gio was 3.5 BB/9 last year, and a K/BB of 2.53.

      • Candide - Nov 25, 2013 at 12:40 PM

        There’s the WPs, too. Has he hit the bull mascot yet?

        (Though NJ’s comment on WPs below is encouraging…)

  3. natsjackinfl - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    The wild pitches were more a lack of quality catchers as much as true wildness.

    It won’t surprise me at all if this kid is on the Nats roster in 2015.

    • Doc - Nov 25, 2013 at 12:19 PM

      I always like to hear your scouting report NJ.

    • Steady Eddie - Nov 25, 2013 at 12:42 PM

      True.

      Also very young and largely untrained (nothing really beyond high school before his two months this past summer) — AND the usual lack of command just coming back from TJ surgery.

      We saw lesser versions of that with JZimm and Stras, and this summer was Giolito’s first time in real pro ball.

      Much too early to read anything into it other than a very talented but very young and largely untrained prospect just starting his post-TJ rehab.

    • Steady Eddie - Nov 25, 2013 at 12:42 PM

      True.

      Also very young and largely untrained (nothing really beyond high school before his two months this past summer) — AND the usual lack of command just coming back from TJ surgery.

      We saw lesser versions of that with JZimm and Stras, and this summer was Giolito’s first time in real pro ball.

      Much too early to read anything into it other than a very talented but very young and largely untrained prospect just starting his post-TJ rehab.

      • Steady Eddie - Nov 25, 2013 at 12:43 PM

        How did I get a double post out of a single click?

    • Sonny G 10 - Nov 25, 2013 at 3:51 PM

      Also, velocity seems to come back before command after TJ surgery. I think the normal progression would be for his command to improve each year over the next couple of years so I wouldn’t worry too much about it now.

  4. sjm308 - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    That is a really impressive prediction natsjack! I had read from various sources that they will not be rushing this young man but I would love to think we will be seeing him in “15”. I do agree with not rushing him and also keeping him on a strict innings limit but if the talent is obvious I hope they make the proper moves.

    • karlkolchak - Nov 25, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      I see a mid-year callup in 2015 to avoid starting his arbitration/free agency clocks too soon.

  5. Theophilus T.S. - Nov 25, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    We need to be impressed that he made it back to taking a regular turn in the rotation in less than twelve months. That requires a lot of bulldog. I agree w/ NatsJack; they can easily control the number of innings he works in 2014 and still “push” him through Hagerstown, Potomac and Harrisburg — just for exposure to advanced hitters if nothing else (he won’t be going to AZ).

  6. alexva6 - Nov 25, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    if they do as they have in the past, don’t expect him to start the season on Opening Day. more likely May 1 in Hagerstown and if all goes well promoted to Potomac for the second half. for 20 yr. old, that’s plenty aggressive.

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 25, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    One thing I have confidence in is how Rizzo will handle Giolito. I think the timetable will be on when Giolito is ready and not as much organizational need to push him quicker than he is ready like some teams do it (see Bundy and Gausman).

    The scouts all love him but the cautionary tale is he was drafted out of High School and with the TJ recovery is on a beginners path which will mean starting at A ball and mastering that level. When he gets to AA we can then have a good idea of when he will make his debut.

  8. unterp - Nov 25, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    heard through the grapevine and please don’t shoot the messenger (well you may), but the Nationals are shopping Desmond per Keith Law…

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 25, 2013 at 2:18 PM

      That makes very little sense but I’m listening.

      • jd - Nov 25, 2013 at 2:53 PM

        I read the piece. Law alleges that the Nats may make Desmond available in a trade and then sign someone like Drew. And law says that’s what he’s heard for whatever it’s worth. I guess it depends what is coming back in the trade. no?

        Could the Nats and Desmond’s people be very far apart in negotiations? you never know.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Nov 25, 2013 at 3:12 PM

        The Nats have a limited number of MLB players they could ‘make available’ in a trade. If they’re seriously engaging in talks about players like David Price, they will have to talk about players like Ian Desmond or Anthony Rendon. Does that mean they want to trade them? No. Does it mean they’re offering them? Again, not necessarily. But they will be part of any discussions, even if they aren’t part of a final deal.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 25, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Nats traded Abad for John Wooten.

    • masterfishkeeper - Nov 25, 2013 at 3:00 PM

      John Wooten was a darned good basketball coach, but . . .

      Oh, that was Wooden, not Wooten. Never mind.

  10. sjm308 - Nov 25, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Still not sure how that works – we take a player off the 40 man roster but we still have his rights? I guess since Abad did not figure in the plans for 2014 it was good to get at least something. Wooten is 22, has played 2 years of A ball for Oakland, went to East Carolina and that is all I have.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Nov 25, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      As I understand it, you DFA him to remove him from your 40-man. Thus, as with any DFA, you get one last shot at a trade before he’s unconditionally released. The A’s could have waited for the release and potentially gotten him for nothing (beyond a contract, of course), but apparently wanted him badly enough to make the offer to the Nats, thus avoiding another team doing the same thing. I think that makes sense.

    • Steady Eddie - Nov 25, 2013 at 3:48 PM

      And the point — or rather, the potential consequence — of not having him on your 40-man is that he’s subject to the Rule 5 draft in early December.

      The reason many teams may not want to try the Rule 5 draft as a way of getting a player like Abad is simple — you have to keep him on your 25-man all year or you lose him. For a team like the As, it’s worth it giving up another prospect because it gives you the flexibility to keep him in the minors as long as he still has options left, which Abad does.
      .

  11. langleyclub - Nov 25, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    The Desmond trade rumors are disconcerting. The only 20/20 SS in baseball in 2013, Desmond is also durable has he played 159 games in 2013 — the most in MLB for an SS. He is only 28, and will not hit free agency until 2016. Other Tulo, not sure there is another better SS in the game.

    It’s not like the Nats system is brimming with middle infielder talent; so, the Nats better have a long term option if they trade Desmond, and Stephen Drew does not do it for me.

    With that said, no team has more high-profile arbitration cases this off-season than Washington; so, there may be pressure to shed a arbitration candidate before the pay-roll sky rockets.

    • DaveB - Nov 25, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      Just like with David Price, the trade value for a good player is often highest when they still have a couple years of team control. I think Ian is pretty universally acclaimed as one of the best young SS’s, so I think this would only be done as part of a really big deal, but it seems like you always need to listen & understand the value of your players.

      Perhaps it means that they are thinking Ian’s asking price to extend is getting too high to be able to lock him up, or perhaps more likely, these rumours could just be an attempt to get some leverage to get him to sign an extension now?

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