Baseball America put 19-year-old, 2012 1st Round pick Lucas Giolito no.1 on their list of the Washington Nationals' Top 10 Prospects this past November and he was ranked no.21 overall on BA's Top 100 Prospects list when it was released a few weeks back. MLB.com put the top prospect in the Nats' system 44th on their top 100. Giolito was no.21 on ESPN.com's Keith Law's Top 100 Prospects list for 2014.
After returning from Tommy John surgery, the hard-throwing right-hander, taken 16th overall by the Nats two Junes back, was (1-1) with a 2.78 ERA, a 2.32 FIP, 10 walks (3.97 BB/9) and 25 Ks (9.93 K/9) in eight starts and 22 2/3 IP for the Gulf Coast Nationals before moving on to the NY/Penn League's Auburn Doubledays and making three more starts in which he was (1-0) with a 0.64 ERA, a 3.41 FIP, four walks (2.57 BB/9) and 14 Ks (9.00 K/9) in 14 IP.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo was asked in a Q&A with readers published today which prospect he would pick to start a franchise if his choices were Giolito, 18-year-old Twins' 2013 1st Round pick RHP Kohl Stewart, 17-year-old Dodgers' LHP Julio Urias, N.C. State lefty Carlos Rodon or 22-year-old Rockies' RHP Eddie Butler? He picked Giolito:
"I like all of the other right-handers, but I think if I was going to take one of them, I'd go with Giolito. He's throwing extremely well after having Tommy John surgery in 2012. If that continues, he has a chance to be a legitimate No. 1, a true ace. And who doesn't want to build around one of those?"
Nationals' Asst. GM and VP of Player Development Doug Harris told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin in an interview earlier this week that the right-hander looked strong so far this spring. "Threw his first sideline for us yesterday," Harris said, "and he's a special talent. Ball jumps out of his hand. He's got really good angle to his fastball. Exceptional carry to the fastball. Breaking ball is as good as you want to see from a young man."
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo, in an interview from the Nationals' Spring Training facilities today, told ESPN980's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro on The Sports Fix that the Nats expected big things from Giolito when they drafted him and still do now that he's back on the mound after Tommy John.
"He's one of our prize prospects," Rizzo said. "He's a big kid with great stuff, like you said. His physicality is really beyond his years. He's a young, 19-year-old kid, but mentally he's very mature and well-bred and articulate. He's got a great IQ and a great baseball IQ and he's blessed with a great arm and couple that with he's got three pitches that he can command and really the command of his fastball is really beyond his 19-year-old chronological age. He's a guy that we drafted with the knowledge that he was going to need Tommy John and it was going to stagnate his development for about 12-14 months, but we felt that his upside was worth the risk. And our rehab guys did a great job with him and our scouts did a great job scouting the make-up and the character."
While the Nats have shown a willingness to take risks with injured pitchers (Giolito, Matt Purke, Ryan Mattheus to name just a few), Rizzo explained that they are careful with the players they gamble on.
"We certainly don't throw caution to the win on all sorts of different injuries," he said. "But we feel that certain injuries are worth the risk, and it's all about risk and reward and when we feel that the risk is manageable and we can put these great, athletic players -- again with great character, because it takes character and make-up to rehab down here, all year, by yourself when everyone leaves this Spring Training facility and do the work, and couple all that with knowing the player and the upside of, if this player comes back to -- if he's one of the 85 or 88% of Tommy John recipients that come back and perform at pre-injury levels, we feel that some of these guys are worth the risk and we really pick and choose the injuries and the players that are going to have the surgery."
• Listen to the full interview with Mike Rizzo on ESPN980's The Sports Fix w/ Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro.