General Manager Mike Rizzo talked this winter about top prospect Lucas Giolito being a part of the next wave of pitching talent in the Washington Nationals' organization that could be major league-ready as soon as mid-2016.
Giolito, 21, put up 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 at High-A Potomac in early 2015, then 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.
His goal this season, the 2012 1st Round pick said upon arriving at Spring Training, was to make his MLB debut at some point in 2016.
"My goal is definitely to reach the big leagues," Giolito told reporters, including Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes.
"There are certain aspects — baseball’s a business — but at the same time I feel like if I progress the way I want to, I’ll have a good shot."
New Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker got his first chance to speak to Giolito this weekend when pitchers and catchers arrived for the first workouts of the season, though the two actually met once previously when Giolito was six years old.
"I just met him," Baker said on Saturday. "I met him and I said, 'Hey, man,' and he goes, 'Do you remember meeting me?' and I was like, 'No... I don't think so.' I'm trying to recall. He said he was six years old, I said, 'Well you weren't 6'4' or 6'5'' -- whatever you -- are at six years old.'"
Giolito threw in front of the veteran manager for the first time on Sunday and made a strong first impression.
"I didn't know what to compare him to," Baker said. "I didn't know him until he walked in the door. But I didn't know he was that big. He has a very, very quick arm. He has one of the quicker arms that I've ever seen. From windup and to his release point and it kind of looks like he can throw as hard as almost he needs to. I really liked what I saw. I liked what I saw in a couple of the other guys."
Giolito said he would take the opportunity of spending time in big league camp to soak up all he could and watch how the other major league arms go about their business.
"I’m gonna try to be a little bit of a fly on the wall and just keep my ears open. I don’t want to annoy anybody," Giolito said, as quoted by the WaPost's Janes.
"It’s my first big league camp. These guys are veterans. I’ll ask questions here and there."
The Nationals' top prospect wasn't the only pitcher to impress in their first throwing sessions of the Spring.
"We have some tough decisions to make," Baker said, "which, you'd rather have those than not enough decisions. We have some dynamite-looking arms, old, young and in the middle and some good bodies. We have some big old stud pitchers and we also have a couple chihuahuas that throw the heck out of the ball."
Who else made an impression?
"[Stephen] Strasburg was okay," Baker told reporters. "Him and [Jonathan] Papelbon were just kind of cruising, but you don't want them to be wide open right now. [Felipe] Rivero he threw the ball outstanding. [Trevor] Gott threw the ball really good. [Blake] Treinen. Almost all these guys. [Michael] Brady, I was kind of surprised. He kind of surprised me, he hasn't pitched that long, being a position guy. His command and his control."
Washington's pitchers will be back at it again today, looking to make a good impression on their new manager and the coaches and front office executives gathered to watch and evaluate the talent the Nationals have assembled.