Happy Lucas Giolito Day, Everyone!
There have been many 2012 first round draft picks to make their professional debuts already — in fact, I’m willing to bet we’ve seen at least 80% of the draftees play in their first professional game. But today is that day for one of the most talked about draftees, California high school RHP Lucas Giolito. In fact, as I’m typing this right now, he’s probably warming up in the bullpen for the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate.
For those of you unfamiliar with his story, Giolito is a prototypical power pitcher (listed at 6’6", 225 pounds) with a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s (and occasionally can touch triple-digits) with a plus curveball and a developing change-up (stop me if you’ve heard that one before). He had a legitimate chance to become the first high school right-hander to go 1st overall in the draft. Unfortunately, that trajectory came to a halt very early in the spring when he was sidelined with an elbow injury — a strain of his UCL to be more specific. Giolito did not return to pitch again before the draft, which exacerbated the uncertainty around where he would go. But the Nationals took a chance with the 16th overall pick that they could get him signed away from his UCLA commitment, and nabbed him for just a bonus just under $3mm. He’s been throwing off a mound for the past few weeks, recently to live hitters, and now the Nats finally get to see him in game action.
So when you’re checking out 2012 draftees for your minor league draft in the spring, don’t just look at the draft slots and assume that tells the story of Giolito’s potential value. He is the pitcher from the 2012 draft with the highest ceiling — and the only guy who scouts throw the "potential ace" tag on. If his elbow is healthy (and that picture will become slightly more clear as he pitches in GCL games), he should be towards the top of your wishlist this off-season. And yes, I will have my version of that wishlist for you when the minor league season is over.