The Washington Nationals just made their 2012 first-round pick in the MLB Draft, adding right-hander Lucas Giolito out of Harvard-Westlake High School in California to a short but impressive list of first-round picks in team history. Giolito was at one time considered a possible No. 1 overall talent before an elbow injury ended his senior high school season this March.
This pick fits the Nationals in more ways than one. General manager Mike Rizzo’s affinity for power arms is well documented and they’ve also shown a willingness to select players who come with injury concerns. The Nationals took Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke in the 2011 draft, both one-time No. 1 overall possibilities, both coming with injury concerns. ESPN.com reported earlier this month that Giolito’s medicals all came back clean and you can be sure the Nationals did their best to get a good look at them.
We’ll have more from Rizzo and his scouting department from Nationals Park on the main site in a bit, but first, here’s a quick scouting report on Giolito:
From the Nationals: The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Giolito is regarded as one of the most advanced right-handed prep prospects to come out of Southern California in the last 20 years. He possesses a fastball that sits in the mid-90’s and has touched triple digits on occasion, but it is his curve ball that sets his talents apart. Giolito’s work ethic is considered exemplary. Giolito went 9-1 with 78 strikeouts and a 1.00 ERA in 70.1 innings as a senior at Harvard Westlake. He also threw three shutouts and tossed four complete games. In 2011, he was named a Perfect Game All-American for his efforts at Harvard-Westlake as a junior.
From ESPN.com’s Keith Law: Giolito might have been a candidate to go first overall before a tender elbow ended his high school season in March; tests were uniformly negative, showing no ligament or tendon damage, and he’s expected to be able to throw for teams before the draft.
He had hit 100 mph in his last outing before the injury and would sit 93-98 in most outings, showing better late life on the pitch and better command within the zone, losing some of his former tendency to give up hard contact on fastballs in the zone. His curveball is sharp and he changes its shape, throwing some with typical two-plane break and others with shorter more slider-like action, mostly in the 83-86 mph range. He’ll flash a changeup but it’s clearly his third option, probably the main thing he’ll need to work on in pro ball.
Giolito stays over the rubber well then drifts forward while taking an enormous stride toward the plate, really making use of his height to generate more velocity. He gets out over his front side well, so his release point is pretty close to the hitter and his stuff, already strong, plays up as a result. His arm path is consistent and clean, with early pronation, and some hip rotation to generate torque. Giolito’s already a grown man at 6-6, 230, even though he won’t turn 18 until July, so his development is about that third pitch and refining the fastball command. Had he been healthy all spring, he would probably have been my No. 1 overall player. If the doctors clear him, he could be excellent value in the pick 6-15 range as perhaps the only pitcher in this draft who has true No. 1 starter upside.