Lucas Giolito introduced himself to new Washington Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker early this Spring, asking the 66-year-old manager if he remembered a brief encounter when the two crossed paths fifteen years or so back.
Baker admitted he did not remember meeting the now-21-year-old right-hander, who had grown some since then and also become the top pitching prospect in the Nationals' system.
"I met him and I said, 'Hey, man,'" Baker told reporters after pitchers and catchers reported earlier this month, "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 is 6'6'' actually, and coming off an impressive 2015 campaign that further established him as one of the top pitching prospects league-wide.
In his fourth pro season after the Nationals selected him with the 16th overall pick of the 2012 Draft, Giolito 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 at High-A Potomac, then moved up to Double-A Harrisburg, where he put up 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.
Baker liked what he saw from the start in Spring Training, offering the following scouting report to reporters after watching the righty in his first throwing session of the Spring.
"He has a very, very quick arm," Baker said. "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."
A few throwing sessions in, Baker was impressed, but was still waiting, as of last week, for a chance to see Giolito's breaking ball.
"I haven't seen -- that dynamite curveball," he said. "I haven't seen it yet, I didn't see him throw it, but I've seen that electric fastball, that electric arm he has and he throws downhill.
"I guess it ain't that hard to throw downhill when you're on top of the hill. I mean, man, he's, phew, boy, I'm anxious to see him -- without rushing -- it's hard not to rush these kids, you know what I mean?"
Without rushing him, Giolito is still on the cusp of making his major league debut, with General Manager Mike Rizzo this winter mentioning him as part of the next wave of pitching prospects in the system who could make their MLB debuts as soon as mid-2016.
Giolito, as he's acknowledged this Spring, is clearly aware that it's a possibility, and it's a goal for him as the season gets underway.
"My goal is definitely to reach the big leagues," he told reporters, including Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes upon arriving in Viera for his first major league Spring Training.
"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."
In a short time with the team, he's managed to make a strong impression on Baker, who told reporters this weekend that the nation's capital is going to like what they see when Giolito does eventually make it up.
"He's a character, number one," Baker said. "The guy has a quick arm, very quick arm. Good body. Good pitching body. Good demeanor. And a very bright young man. Washington is going to love him when he gets there."
Asked if he had any concerns about the righty pushing too hard and trying to do too much as he tried to impress all of the coaches and executives gathered at the Nationals' training facilities, Baker said he hadn't seen anything that has him concerned.
"He's pretty cool for his age. He's real cool," Baker said after watching Giolito throw live BP. "He hasn't [stood] out, like some rookies do. And actually, he's been -- Bryce [Harper] got in there and hit against him -- looked at some pitches --because he had never seen him. He could be his teammate for a long time, and he just kind of wanted to see what he had."
Everyone in camp with the Nats got a good look at what Giolito has when he pitched in the Nationals' intrasquad game on Monday afternoon, throwing what MASNSports.com's Mark Zuckerman reported was an impressive "1-2-3 inning of relief," during which he threw a curve to non-roster invitee, "Brendan Ryan that completely froze the veteran infielder."
Baker certainly noticed, as he told reporters after the second of two intrasquad games the Nationals played.
"Giolito today showed me that curveball that I had heard about," he said. "That was some nasty stuff he was throwing up there. So, our future and near future looks very bright with some of the arms that we have."