Before he pitched in the 2014 All-Star Futures Game this past Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis, Minnesota's Target Field, giving up a big two-run home run by Chicago Cubs' prospect Javier Baez and recording two outs while throwing a 94-96 mph fastball, an 82 mph change and curve that sat around 84 mph, 2012 Washington Nationals' 1st Round pick Lucas Giolito talked about the one pitch he hasn't been throwing during his first full minor league season since returning to competitive action following Tommy John surgery.
"I haven't thrown the two-seamer and I don't think I will until Double-A," Giolito told MLB Network Radio "Minors and Majors" host Grant Paulsen.
"I think it's an organization thing," Giolito said of the the mandate to stick with the four-seam fastball. "It's just a matter of making sure that I get my four-seam fastball command as [good] as it can be. Because it definitely needs work, I know that."
In 14 starts with the Low-A Hagerstown Suns this season before he pitched in the prospect showcase that kicked off this week's All-Star festivities, Giolito, who just turned 20, is (4-2) with a 2.47 ERA, a 3.82 FIP, 24 walks (3.29 BB/9) and 72 Ks (9.87 K/9) in 65 ⅔ IP.
The work the 16th pick in the 2012 Draft has done thus far this season has resulted in a seven-spot jump from his position at the start of the year on ESPN.com's Keith Law's list of the Top 50 Prospects in baseball.
Law ranked the Nationals' top prospect no.21 overall when his prospect list was released this past January, up from no.77 on the 2013 list, writing that he would likely move slowly this season in his full-year back, but noting that even after TJS, the 6'6'' righty has a fastball and curve that give him, "two 70-grade pitches with command and feel," with a changeup that's still a work in progress but is improving.
That list was released after a 2013 campaign in which Giolito pitched for the Nationals' rookie level affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, where he 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 22 ⅔ IP before he moved up to the New York-Penn League's Auburn Doubledays, where he went (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.
In ranking Giolito no.14 on his Midseason Top 50 Prospects list today, ESPN.com's Mr. Law writes that with the limits on the right-hander this season in terms of innings/pitch limits and the "prohibition on his two-seamer" we might not see just how good he can be until he's free of restrictions and pitching at Double-A.
Even now, however, Law writes that Giolito has "top-of-the-rotation upside."
When the Nationals drafted the Santa Monica, California-born, Harvard-Westlake-High School-educated starter after 15 teams passed on him when he injured his elbow in March of his draft year, now-former Assistant GM Roy Clark, who left to join the LA Dodgers, told reporters in the nation's capital that the Nats were willing to take a risk on Giolito because when healthy he projected as a top-of-the-rotation arm.
"Up to 98 [mph] with a plus breaking ball and real good change up," Clark said.
"6'6''... again, a top-of-the-rotation guy that you can get at sixteen... It was a no-brainer for us. Hopefully we get him signed and get him out in a Nats' [uniform]."
The Nationals signed Giolito to a $2.925M bonus, oversaw his rehab and got him back on the mound and he has been moving up the prospect rankings since...
• Baseball America ranked Giolito no.11 on their Midseason Top 50 when it was released earlier this month:
We gave subscribers a head-start as a thanks, but the BA Midseason Top 50 Prospects list is now free for all. http://t.co/9afBWZwQbL— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) July 7, 2014
• Minor League Ball's John Sickels ranked Giolito no.12 on his Midseason rankings of the Top 75 Prospects:
• Here's Keith Law's Midseason Top 50:
New post for Insiders - my new ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball: http://t.co/TdAYuy5U5i— keithlaw (@keithlaw) July 17, 2014