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Nationals' Lucas Giolito repeats as MLB.com's Top Right-handed pitching prospect

For the second straight season, 2012 Washington Nationals' first-round pick Lucas Giolito is listed as the top right-handed pitching prospect in baseball on MLB.com's Top 10 List. Giolito will report to major league Spring Training with the Nats for the first time next month.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo talked about Lucas Giolito at the Winter Meetings as being part of the next wave of Nationals' pitching prospects -- along with the likes of Austin Voth and Reynaldo Lopez -- who could, he said, potentially be major-league ready as soon as mid-2016.

When he met with reporters again at Nats WinterFest in December, Rizzo said the top prospect among them, Giolito, would report to major league Spring Training for the first time next month.

"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." - Nats' Scouting Director Kris Kline on Giolito, June 2012

"He's going to come to the major league camp and be in his first major league Spring Training," Rizzo said.

"We're going to, obviously, be caretaker to his workload and his innings and we expect big things from Lucas Giolito not only in 2016 but down the road also."

They've expected big things from Giolito, 21, since they drafted him with the 16th overall pick in the first round of the 2012 Draft, in spite of the fact that they knew the right-hander, considered for a time a potential no.1 overall pick, would likely need Tommy John surgery after suffering a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow in his final season at Harvard-Westlake HS in California.

"A good comparison might be Roy Halladay when everything's clicking," now-former Assistant GM Roy Clark said on the night of the Draft in June, 2012. "We'll take that... every year of the draft."

Rizzo said that night that the plan, as always, was to go with the best available option each time their turn to pick came up.

"The most impactful guy at each and every round that we can find," he explained.

"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."

Though he did have Tommy John surgery in late 2012, he returned to the mound in 2013, and Giolito now has 53 games (51 starts) under his belt between Rookie-A-AA in the Nationals' system.

"I'm really looking forward to talking with Max Scherzer. The stuff he was able to do last year is pretty amazing. And I just want to see how he goes about his business..." -Lucas Giolito on picking other pitchers' brains via MLB.com

He started the year at High-A Potomac in 2015, going (3-5) with a 2.71 ERA, a 1.96 FIP, 20 walks (2.58 BB/9) and 110 Ks (11.11 K/9) in 13 games, 11 starts and 69 ⅔ IP. He finished the season at Double-A Harrisburg, going (4-2) in eight starts with a 3.80 ERA, a 3.18 FIP, 17 walks (3.23 BB/9) and 45 Ks (8.56 K/9) in 47 ⅓ IP.

So knowing that he could, at some point in the near future, get the call to make his major league debut, how, Giolito was asked in an interview posted on MLB.com last week, would he stay focused on the task at hand, and not let the thought of making his MLB debut some day soon become a distraction?

"Definitely one of the main thing I've heard this from veteran guys, teammates and various people that I've met in this path of baseball," he explained, "is that you just want to focus on where you are and what you can do to become a better player... and, obviously, work to win games for your team as well and if you focus on those things and you work hard and do everything you can do to just make yourself better that day, then the good results will follow."

They have for Giolito thus far. In naming the righty the top right-handed pitching prospect in baseball tonight, MLB.com writer Jim Callis mentioned the risk the Nationals took in selecting Giolito in spite of the concerns about his elbow back in 2012 and how it has paid off for Washington:

"Giolito could have been the first high school righty drafted No. 1 overall, but he injured his right elbow as a senior in 2012 and required Tommy John surgery. That didn't deter Washington from spending a first-round pick and $2,925,000 on Giolito, and the payoff has been an almost-certain ace with no discernible flaw. Giolito has a fastball that can reach 100 mph, a wipeout curveball and a promising changeup, not to mention command, size and smarts."

It's Giolito's second straight year atop MLB.com's list of the top right-handed pitching prospects in baseball. Here's the rest of the list: