February 26, 2012; Melbourne, FL, USA; Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo during today's spring training workouts at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE
California-born, Harvard-Westlake high schooler Lucas Giolito was considered by some the top high school arm available in this year's draft, but the right-hander suffered a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow that caused his stock to fall. It's a familiar story for the Nationals. The Nats selected Anthony Rendon, considered by many the best hitter in the 2011 Draft, with the 6th pick overall pick last season after a shoulder injury caused concerns that led to the five teams picking in front of Washington passing on the Rice infielder. With their 3rd Round pick last year, the Nationals took left-hander Matt Purke, who'd gone to the Texas Rangers in the first round two years earlier but failed to sign and instead went to college where he suffered a shoulder injury. The Nationals gave the TCU pitcher an above-slot deal to get him signed when other teams expressed concerns about his health.
According to a front page story in the LA Times this morning, Giolito, a 6'6'', 220 lb right-hander, has spent the last few months since suffering the injury rehabbing his elbow and when Nats' GM Mike Rizzo spoke to reporters tonight after the Nationals made the 17-year-old the 16th overall pick in the 2012 Draft he said they were comfortable taking the pitcher who presented a significant risk but had tremendous upside. "We weighed the risk against the reward," the Nationals' general manager explained. "We felt that to get a 6'6'', 220lb right-handed pitcher with a great body and plus velocity and good stuff, great character and great makeup, we've been on this guy from day one, and we just felt that the reward outweighed the risk and we did our homework and our due diligence on his health and his makeup and decided this is the type of player, the type of stuff and the type of ceiling that we want here in the Washington Nationals' organization."
Now that he's been selected, the Nats' GM said, "We're going to try to get him signed as soon as possible and we'll get him out and check him out physically with our doctors and then we'll prescribe a course of action and take it from there." Asked how his recovery's going, the Nationals' general manager said, "The elbow is good. He's been throwing on flat ground. He's been long-tossing and doing a throwing program so we feel confident about [his health] and he feels confident about it and we'll see once we get our hands on him [and get him] in our uniform we'll see where he's at."
The Nationals' GM told reporters they've seen all the medical work done on the right-hander, and they've worked in the past with the doctors Giolito's been rehabbing with since suffering the injury. "We've dealt with those doctors many times with many of our major league players, so we have a familiarity with the medical staff over there at the Jobe Clinic and we feel comfortable that we know where he is physically and that was a big part of the reason that we took the player when we did."
"He's got a great package," Rizzo said when asked to describe the right-hander's stuff on the mound, "He's a power body and a power arm with three plus pitches across the board and a real competitive side and he's a great person, he's a great kid with a great character and a great makeup." Nationals' scouting director Kris Kline, who'd seen Giolito pitch before the injury said there was a noticeable difference when they saw him pitch this year. "It was a little down this year," Kline said, "You could tell that he wasn't himself, but we saw him at [the Aflac All-American Baseball Classic] and it was very good what we've seen in the past."
"I mean this kid's been up to 100 [mph]," Kline continued, "He'll touch 100, he's got a power curve ball that's 80-85, very good feel for his changeup, tremendous size, excellent leverage to his delivery. In Aflac he was probably 93-97, pitching at 94, but a little later on you could tell something wasn't quite right, but we stayed on him. When he's 100%, he goes top three in this draft, so it's kind of a no-brainer."
Assistant GM Roy Clark, who was the scouting director with the Atlanta Braves before he joined Rizzo's front office in D.C., said he too had seen Giolito pitch before the injury. "I saw him several times last summer," Clark said, "Up to 98[mph] with a plus breaking ball and real good change up... 6'6''... again, a top-of-the-rotation guy that you can get at 16, our doctors' reports, everything was fine. It was a no-brainer for us. Hopefully we get him signed and get him out in a Nats' [uniform]."
The 16th pick of the draft this year has an assigned slot value of $2.125M if the Nationals follow the recommended bonus. "We're going to make every attempt to sign him," Rizzo said when asked how he thought the negotiations would go, "And with the new rules in the [CBA] it's a different ballgame, so we're going to put our best foot forward and try to sell him on our place here in Washington as the place that will get him the healthiest and get him the best opportunity to do what he wants to do and that's to pitch in the big leagues."
The deadline to sign this year's picks is July 15th.