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On Nationals’ prospect Lucas Giolito’s “disappointing” 2016 campaign

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Top prospect Lucas Giolito’s performance in the majors this season was not what he or the Nationals expected. Will he bounce back in 2017?

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

How disappointed can you be when a 22-year-old struggles in his first exposure to major league hitters? Especially when it’s his first exposure above Double-A. But if there are questions about his velocity... and command?

Then again, what if it’s a prospect who was drafted out of high school, had Tommy John surgery and missed a year of his development as he worked his way up?

Washington Nationals’ prospect Lucas Giolito, who was the top-ranked right-handed prospect in baseball on most lists when the 2016 season began, was disappointed in himself after he struggled in the majors.

In fourteen starts at Double-A before he was called up, Giolito went (5-3) with a 3.17 ERA, a 3.30 FIP, 34 walks (4.31 BB/9) and 72 Ks (9.13 K/9) in 71 IP.

In seven starts at Triple-A, between outings with the Nationals, the right-hander was (1-2) with a 2.17 ERA, a 2.96 FIP, 10 walks (2.41 BB/9) and 40 Ks (9.64 K/9) in 34 13 IP.

In six games (four starts) with the Nationals, Giolito was (1-2) with a 6.75 ERA, an 8.21 FIP, 12 walks (5.06 BB/9) and 11 Ks (4.64 K/9) in 21 13 IP.

He averaged 93.3 mph with his highly-touted fastball (which maxed out at 95.8 mph) and opposing hitters put up a .349 AVG against his heater.

After what ended up being Giolito’s last major league start, a five-inning outing against the Colorado Rockies in which he gave up six hits and four runs, walking two and striking out two, Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker talked about the fact that the young starter wasn’t getting the swings and misses he was in the minors.

“We haven’t seen it yet, at the major league level,” Baker said. “His fastball is relatively straight, so you’ve got to locate it well and hopefully he’ll get better.”

Giolito, in a post-season article, talked to Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo about his disappointment with the overall results in the majors.

“I know what my talent is,” Giolito told the WaPost reporter:

“I have a good idea of what I can do and to not do it is frustrating — to not perform up to your standard, to how you want to perform.”

“I look at the season as, like, my first big road bump, I guess, to get across in my career,” Giolito added. “I mean, [Tommy John] surgery was difficult but it’s in a different category. Performance is different and, to not perform, it’s difficult.”

Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo, in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies this week, was asked if he’d seen enough from Giolito to say whether or not he might end up in the rotation on Opening Day 2017?

“I’ve seen enough from him not only this year, but the last couple years,” Rizzo said.

“He came a long way. I thought it was an important season for him. First time in his life, in his career, that he had failure, and I saw a young pitcher that was overcoming the failure portion of it. We trust him. We think he’s a front line rotation guy.

“He’s got all the tools and all the package to be a really effective starting pitcher. We think he is very, very close to being major league ready. I wouldn’t rule out that he’s on the Opening Day roster and in the Opening Day rotation. He’s that talented.

“But nothing is guaranteed. There are no spots that are given, you have to earn them and especially a young player, you’ve got to earn your way to the big league rotation.

“This isn’t a ‘try hard’ league, this is a ‘let’s perform’ league and if he performs as we think he will, he’s going to be a big asset for us.”