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Prospect spotlight: Lucas Giolito

Nov 27, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT


Age on Opening Day 2016: 21

How acquired: 1st round pick, 2012 draft

Position: Starting pitcher

Prospect Rank: No. 1 in Nats’ org. (Baseball America)

2015 Level/Team: Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg

2015 Stats: (two teams) 21 G, 19 GS, 3.15 ERA, 117 IP, 113 H, 45 R, 41 ER, 3 HR, 37 BB, 131 SO, 6 HBP, 9 WP, 1.282 WHIP, 7-7, 10.1 SO/9, 3.54 K/BB

2015 Analysis: In his third season back from Tommy John surgery, Lucas Giolito continued to make strides as one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He began the 2015 season with the Single-A Potomac Nationals and made 13 appearances there (11 starts) before moving on to Double-A.

With the P-Nats, Giolito posted a 2.71 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings. He was especially good over his last seven starts in Potomac when he held a 0.96 ERA (4 ER in 37.1 IP). That earned him a promotion to Harrisburg where he made his Double-A debut on July 28.

Much like his time in Potomac this season, Giolito struggled initially at Harrisburg before settling in to dominate for an extended stretch. He allowed 10 earned runs across 10 innings in his first two starts before holding a 2.41 ERA in his final six.

Giolito finished the season with 131 strikeouts to 37 walks in 117 total innings. In 2016, he will hope to improve on his walks and also cut down on wild pitches and hit batters as he continues to get better command of the strike zone.

2016 Outlook: Drafted in 2012 out of high school, Giolito is still a very young pitcher as he turns 22 in July. But with the expected departures of both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, there could be room in the Nationals’ rotation out of spring for the 6-foot-6 right-hander. As of now, at least.

The Nats rotation currently projects like this: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross and Tanner Roark. Unless they make a move, Giolito could easily challenge to join that mix if he has a good spring and if the Nats see him as ready for the majors.

But if Mike Rizzo’s track record as GM is any indication, that projected starting five will not end up looking the same come February. The Nats under Rizzo have added a starter every offseason and many times in unexpected moves. It would not be surprising at all if they traded for a veteran starter like they once did for Gonzalez and Fister.

Even if the Nationals add a starter this offseason, Giolito will likely debut at some point in 2016. And if he does, questions of his innings limit could become an issue. Giolito finished with 117 innings in 2015, which would set him up for somewhere around 140-160 innings next season. If they start him on the big league roster in April, we could have a whole new shutdown discussion with the Nationals expected to be back in playoff contention next September.

  1. ArVAFan - Nov 27, 2015 at 8:33 AM

    “we could have a whole new shutdown discussion with the Nationals expected to be back in playoff contention next September.”

    If that’s the worst thing we have to worry about next September, I’ll take it.

    It might have been good to have Bud Black work with Giolito as he comes into the majors, based on his track record with pitchers, but Maddux has a good reputation, too. If there is a shutdown decision, I think we can agree that it will be in the best interest of the player and the team in the long run (and it will give endless offseason fodder for the talking heads).

    • sjm308 - Nov 27, 2015 at 9:05 AM

      Agree with you on taking a shutdown conversation being a good thing.

      I have been thinking about Black vs. Baker. I was not a fan of either as a first choice and people are always talking about Black’s expertise w/pitchers versus the unfair Baker criticisms from his early managing. Actually its not unfair if you look at what he did with the Cubs, but since then we have not seen evidence of overusing his staff. That is not going to be my point. I think with all the other duties of a manager, Black would probably not have as much time to focus on only the pitching. I am not sure that is why there are not that many pitchers heading up clubs but the manager has 25 players to look out for while the pitching coach and bullpen coach take care of just 12 to 15. Yes, Black would have opinions that differ from Dusty but I think we have to hope that Dusty will rely heavily on what Maddux has to say. I am still waiting to have Rizzo hire Pudge but he hasn’t returned my calls.

      • rgsie - Nov 29, 2015 at 10:07 AM

        Pudge would be a fabulous idea. Thanks for mentioning.

    • veejh - Nov 27, 2015 at 10:33 AM

      Maybe Rizzo takes a play out of the Mets handbook this time around.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Nov 27, 2015 at 11:54 AM

        I’ll reserve judgment until how I see how well those Mets arms recover by and for next season.

      • Dave - Nov 28, 2015 at 8:07 AM

        I agree with Eugene. The Matt Harvey story is far from over.

  2. bigcat492 - Nov 27, 2015 at 8:47 AM

    If he had a good spring, I’d bring him to DC. on Opening Day

  3. Doc - Nov 27, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    Rotation looks more than adequate.

    Riz needs to concentrate on the pen.

    Giolito will probably impress in ST, but I’d still start him in AAA. I’d like a big bopper to back up Harper. Maybe he’s already in the clubhouse, i.e. Zim.

    • shawndc04 - Nov 27, 2015 at 10:20 AM

      I agree that the pen is the pitching priority, but I’m not sure that the SR “looks more than adequate.” The jury, to me, is still out on Roark and Ross, and Gio is, well, Gio. The club may well need another reliable starter after MS and SS and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mike try to get one.

  4. NatsLady - Nov 27, 2015 at 10:46 AM

    I didn’t follow the Arizona Fall League, but just read this.

    The pitcher that may have raised his stock the most was John Simms. The Washington Nationals prospect earned the win in four of his five starts, finishing with an ERA of 1.88 and a 3/1 K/BB ratio. His stuff isn’t overpowering, sitting 88-90, but has a solid change and an 11-5 curveball that he is willing to use in any count.

    • shawndc04 - Nov 27, 2015 at 11:02 AM

      Hadn’t really heard of him, but if his fastball is only 90, meaning his change is 80-82, it’s hard to imagine getting double digit wins out of him in the bigs.

      • NatsLady - Nov 27, 2015 at 11:13 AM

        Right. I checked He was a 39th round pick and is 23. So… you never know?

      • blovy8 - Nov 27, 2015 at 3:42 PM

        90 can work if he has command and some movement on it. That’s a tough environment for pitchers.

  5. NatsLady - Nov 27, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    I don’t have any problem with shutting down Giolito even if the Nats are in contention… You must note that with all Strasburg’s injuries, NONE have been to his arm.

    Giolito is a long-term investment. He was brought to the team in part because Rizzo persuaded him that the Nats would take care of his health. I don’t want Rizzo to back down on that promise.

  6. trfwans - Nov 27, 2015 at 11:28 AM

    If there’s a Giolito shutdown controversy next season it will represent a Rizzo offseason fail, just as will also be the case if they go into spring training with Roark and Ross penciled in as #4 and 5 in the rotation. Rizzo needs to sign or trade for some starting rotation depth. That’s not a knock on any of these three guys, but there’s nothing behind them if Roark or Ross gets hurt or Giolito hits his innings limit. And don’t say Taylor Jordan or Taylor Hill or any of those other names. They’re all AAAA starters, possible bullpen arms. The Colon Battlestars of the world.

    • ArVAFan - Nov 27, 2015 at 2:29 PM

      I am highly amused by your auto-corrupt. I am imagining Bartolo Colon in Star Wars getup.

      • Dave - Nov 28, 2015 at 8:09 AM

        That is one of the best autocorrect mistakes I have ever seen. And you have to be a Nats fan of long-standing to get it.

  7. Eugene in Oregon - Nov 27, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    Off topic, but a good read on the upcoming CBA negotiations/issues…

  8. Section 222 - Nov 27, 2015 at 3:06 PM

    Unless Roark or Gio is traded for bullpen or outfield help, I don’t expect Rizzo to bring in another starter by trade or free agency. Ross is a keeper, and for better or worse Roark is going to get a chance in the rotation this season. Jordan and Hill really can’t be counted on for anything but emergency or spot starts. I’m not holding out a lot of hope for Cole either. The pitching cupboard isn’t exactly bare, but for this season, it’s pretty sparse if we have a significant injury, but bringing in another starter during the offseason puts Roark back on the long relief bubble. I really don’t think they want to do that with him again, if only to keep his trade value up.

    I’ll be very happy if Giolito doesn’t see Nats Park until September, except on TV.

    • trfwans - Nov 27, 2015 at 4:20 PM

      So if Ross and/or Roark gets hurt early on, the season is toast. Right? Rizzo could add starter depth by signing a Chris Young type or by trading for a young starter from another team. Then the new guy(s) could battle it out with Ross and Roark for a spot in the rotation. Both of those guys have options, so if they get beat out for a spot in the rotation they could be stashed in AAA. As is often said by Rizzo and others, you can never have too much pitching.

      • Section 222 - Nov 27, 2015 at 5:14 PM

        Feel, as you may remember, Chris Young didn’t stick around long enough to replace an injured pitcher early in the season. That’s because a “Chris Young type” has to ‘go north’ or be released. If there were a minor leaguer able to compete for a starting spot, great. But as you said before Hill and Jordan just aren’t on that level. Neither is AJ Cole in my view. At any rate, you don’t really think Ross has to battle it out for a rotation spot, do you? And I think Roark has that No. 5 spot locked up until he loses it during the season. If something happens to someone, they can go out and get a Chris Young type from another team.

        You may think otherwise, but I just don’t expect Rizzo to sign someone for serious money and put Roark right back into the No.6/long relief spot.

      • trfwans - Nov 27, 2015 at 6:17 PM

        Ghost, as I said upthread your boys “Joe Cool” and Roark may indeed both be good enough for season-long spots in the rotation. But Rizzo would be a fool if he goes into spring training blindly assuming that will be the case. He’ll acquire backup starting pitching somehow this offseason. If that ends up pushing Roark back into the bullpen or “Joe Cool” into AAA, so be it. That’s baseball.

      • Section 222 - Nov 27, 2015 at 8:35 PM

        Feel, you think I’m Ghost? That’s funny. He’s long gone from this blog. I’m the same Section 222 as I’ve always been. Haven’t changed my name once since it started in 2010 (though I’ve changed my section in the park). How many monikers have you had? I’ve lost count.

        I probably should be a little more clear about my prediction since you are parsing my comments so carefully. I won’t be surprised if Rizzo brings in starting pitching “depth.” What I don’t expect, unless one of our current starters is traded, is a free agent signing or trade acquisition of someone with a healthy salary (“serious money” as I said before) who would have to slot in the rotation — like an EJax or Haren or Fister. That’s because I expect Roark and Ross to be in the rotation come O.D. if they are on the team and healthy. You are welcome to disagree as you often do.

      • trfwans - Nov 27, 2015 at 9:14 PM

        Zmunchkin, a careful parsing of your remarks and mine would indicate that you’re the one who brought up “serious money”, not me. Indeed, you would seem to agree with everything I’ve said in this thread. In picking a fight with Feel, you are picking a fight with yourself. Are you sure you’re not Feel?

      • unkyd59 - Nov 28, 2015 at 5:48 PM

        trfeel… the poster child for limited reading comprehension…

  9. blovy8 - Nov 27, 2015 at 3:46 PM

    I still don’t really understand why Cole didn’t get to pitch even an inning in September.

  10. Section 222 - Nov 27, 2015 at 5:09 PM

    I wondered about that too since Cole didn’t even pitch as many innings in the minors as he did last year. But MW really wasn’t interested in using the callups just to see what they have, and I don’t really blame him. He was fighting for a winning record and his job. In general, I think we exaggerate the importance of callups getting September appearances. The brain trust knows what they have. They get reports from the minors on a daily basis I’m sure. A random inning or two in September isn’t going to matter. It would be different story if they were showcasing a prospect for an off season trade — like the Nats did with Peacock and Milone in late 2011.

    • unkyd59 - Nov 27, 2015 at 9:06 PM

      +1, Dueces! No hurry, on throwing money at a sixth rotation candidate, as trades will be available, when actually needed… We’ll see what Mike comes up with, but I’m seriously tantalized be bathe prospect of Maddux working with Ross and Roark…and especially the other three youngsters… AAAA, perhaps….so far…

      • unkyd59 - Nov 27, 2015 at 9:07 PM

        …tantalized “by the prospect”…(sheesh!)

  11. raleighnat - Nov 27, 2015 at 7:51 PM

    I’m thinking we will add a starter via trade.





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