"There [are] a lot of good high school arms out there," D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters on Sunday, before the Washington Nationals selected 6'6'', 220 lb, 17-year-old Harvard-Westlake High School right-hander Lucas Giolito with the 16th pick in the 1st Round of the 2012 MLB Draft. "There's a lot of talented college players out there and we feel that we've got a good lineup of players that potentially could help the Nationals on the board and it's time to pull the trigger and get some guys to help the Nationals win."
It was a different kind of 1st Round than the Nationals were used to after picking 1st overall in 2009 and 2010 and picking 6th overall last season. "Picking in the middle of the pack [16th overall]," the Nats' general manager explained, they had to wait to see what the 15 teams picking before them would do and then react. "It's kind of, we put together our list and the next guy that's on the top of the list is the guy you're going to take." Before the Draft, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo described Giolito, who was considered one of the top pitchers available before he suffered an elbow injury this season, as a prep school starter who, "... had a legitimate shot at becoming the first high school right-hander in Draft history to go No. 1 overall," while noting that he was getting, "... comps to Roy Halladay, in terms of his size."
Nationals' Assistant GM (and former Atlanta Braves' scouting director) Roy Clark is one of those people comparing Giolito to the former Blue Jays and current Phillies' starter. When he was asked last night, Clark didn't hesitate to throw the future Hall of Fame pitcher's name out there when discussing Giolito's potential. "A good comparison might be Roy Halladay when everything's clicking," Clark said, "We'll take that... every year of the draft."
The Nats' Asst. GM indirectly agreed with MLB.com's Mr. Mayo's assessment of Giolito's potential as well, telling reporters, "I saw him several times last summer. 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." ESPN.com's Keith Law praised the Nationals' decision to draft a pitcher with injury concerns, noting that he too thought Giolito, "... would likely have ranked at the top of my draft board had he been healthy all spring." If they can sign the right-hander, who does have a commitment to UCLA, the ESPN analyst wrote this morning that he thinks that Nationals made a pick that could really pay off.
"He was up to 98 [mph] last year," Roy Clark said, "but when [Scouting Director] Kris [Kline] and I both saw him twice early when they first started, he was 96 [mph], but that was early February, so he didn't lose a whole lot [from] when he was healthy, and he is throwing 220ft, long-toss right now [on flat ground.]"
On Sunday afternoon, Mike Rizzo outlined the Nationals' strategy with their picks this year by explaining that the team would simply, "... go after the best player available. We have a strategy and a plan, and like I said, we've done our work as far as signabilities and such so we feel comfortable with the plan that we have." In selecting Giolito, Rizzo told reporters Monday night that they did in fact, "... go best player available. The most impactful guy at each and every round that we can find. That's who we try [to] get, and [Giolito] kind of stood out to us in that vein. This is a guy that can impact a rotation and is big physical guy that fits in with the other big, physical, hard-throwing guys that we already have."
"He's got a power curve and that's probably as good as his fastball," the Nats' GM continued, "He's got a power 12-6 curve that's anywhere from 82-to-85-86 mph at times and he's got a feel to pitch. He's not a thrower. He's got a touch and comes at you with that 6'6'' frame, he comes at you downhill and he's coming hard." Asked if he expected to find Giolito available, or expected that they would be able to get him with the 16th pick, Rizzo explained that he and his scouts had prepared for any possibilities.
"We have contingency plans for every occasion and we weren't shocked that he was there for us," the general manager said, "but if he was taken at the top of the Draft, we wouldn't have been shocked by that either. We had our plans together, we had our strategy together... and like I said, the risk outweighed the reward."
"I think it's an individual thing," Rizzo told reporters when asked if it would be different developing a high school arm after drafting and developing mostly college arms in recent years, "But college guys we have to take very, very careful, because they pitch so much the year that you draft them. College guys, first of all, usually don't sign until the deadline, August 15th in the past, so they get that time off. This particular high school player will probably get more work than most because he hasn't been overworked over the years, but we're going to let the doctors guide us through that. And as we've shown in the past, we have as good of rehab coordinators and medical staff as far as dealing with elbow injuries as anybody in baseball."
Giolito, in a press conference this afternoon, told reporters that he's not worried about the elbow issues. "I've had some of the best doctors around treat me," the pitcher said, "and I'm feeling really good. And I'm confident that this issue is behind me. I've been throwing off flat ground. I've been getting it out really far. So far I've gone around 280-300ft of long-toss then I come back in. I've been throwing it pretty hard from the 60ft flat ground," and he's looking forward to pitching again soon.
When the right-hander got the call that the Nationals had selected him 16th overall last night, Giolito said, "I had no idea where I was going to go off the board. I was sitting there and I was surrounded by my family and close friends and it was really just a huge surprise to get taken by such a great organization. And right when it happened, it just kind of struck me and I was speechless. It was just an awesome moment."
"I've already been rehabbing and I've been throwing and everything," Giolito explained, "So I feel really good and I've been working out a lot, working all sorts of different muscles in my rehab program." The pitcher told reporters today he thinks he'll be back on the mound soon. Asked for a comparison among major league pitchers, the high school pitcher mentioned both Justin Verlander and the Nats' Stephen Strasburg. Asked to describe his own repertoire, the 17-year-old right-hander said, "I really like to throw my fastball inside and bust people in and maybe come back with my curve ball. I've been developing my changeup a lot, so that's obviously a tool I'll have that I'll be able to use. And just a combination of everything to be able to attack hitters and do everything I can to help the team win."
The Nationals have until July 13th to convince the right-hander to sign instead of attending UCLA.