Talking about the Washington Nationals' pitching depth earlier this winter, GM Mike Rizzo said he was happy with the five starters expected, as of now, to be in the major league rotation, the secondary depth like right-handed starters A.J. Cole and Taylor Jordan and the prospects on their way up to the majors behind them.
"We've got a new wave of guys coming that could be there as early as mid-2016," Rizzo explained, "... with the [Lucas] Giolitos, the [Austin] Voths and the [Reynaldo] Lopezes of our system, so we like where we're at... we like the veterans and our youth and we think we're going to be -- under Dusty [Baker] -- a real exciting team that's going to try to win the National League East again."
Baseball America ranked Giolito (no.1), 2014 1st Round pick Erick Fedde (no.4), Lopez (no.5), Cole (no.7) and Voth (no.9) as the top pitchers in the organization after the 2015 campaign, with BA's Teddy Cahill writing that Giolito, the Nationals' top pick in 2012, "... has developed into one of the top pitching prospects in the game as he continues to get further removed from Tommy John surgery."
MLB.com ranked Giolito, who underwent Tommy John after he was drafted in 2012, as the top pitching prospect in baseball on their latest list, writing that the 21-year-old right-hander's fastball, "... sits in the mid to upper 90s and has touched 100 mph. He throws his 12-to-6 curveball with a lot of power, and it is nearly as good as his fastball.
"He has made strides with his changeup, turning it into a true weapon against left-handers."
Giolito, who started at High-A Potomac in the Nationals' system in 2015, posting a 2.71 ERA, a 1.96 FIP, 20 walks (2.58 BB/9) and 86 Ks (11.11 K/9) in 69 ⅔ innings pitched, and moved up to Double-A Harrisburg, where he posted a 3.80 ERA, a 3.18 FIP, 17 walks (3.23 BB/9) and 45 Ks (8.56 K/9) in 47 ⅓ innings, talked about the development of his changeup in an MLB Network Radio interview this past July.
"I'd say it's really coming along," Giolito said. "It's one of my go-to pitches. I throw that for a strike pretty often. I trust that pitch in any count basically nowadays. It's really helpful in hitter's counts like 2-0, 2-1, I love throwing it there, getting back to an even count or ahead in the count. Especially in this league, a lot of guys like to cheat to the fastball early on, a lot of early ambush swingers, especially in like the one or two-hole. So throwing the changeup to them, it's really helpful and I feel like I've made some good strides with it."
Nats' pitching coordinator Paul Menhart told MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr that Giolito worked during the Instructional League this Fall to, "... repeat his delivery better and get a little more athletic," with the focus on repeating his delivery throughout his starts and building, "... on Giolito's core flexibility."
Giolito will get an opportunity to test himself this Spring when he starts the year at major league Spring Training for the first time.
"He's going to come to the major league camp and be in his first major league Spring Training," Rizzo told reporters at Nats WinterFest last month.
"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."
Will Giolito start the 2016 campaign back at Double-A Harrisburg or move up to Triple-A Syracuse to start the year?
Will the Nationals' top prospect make his major league debut in 2016?
Will any of the Nats' other top pitching prospects make it up to the majors this season?