Lucas Giolito, who was drafted by the Washington Nationals tonight out of the 16th slot, is a premier high school arm. Rated as the number-two prospect in BaseballNewsHound’s “2012 MLB Draft: Top 60 Prospects with Scouting Grades” pre-draft rankings, Giolito draws comparisons to Brad Lidge and Josh Johnson for his size and stuff. The Harvard-Westlake grad can touch 98-100 MPH off the mound and he’s arguably his draft classes most talented young pitcher. More than just a hard-thrower, Giolito is a spectacular athlete with clean mechanics and advanced command over a big league repertoire. A strong UCLA commitment and a sprained elbow kept him out of the top ten picks, but if he signs with the Nationals, he could be one of this draft’s biggest steals– even if his price tag pushes $4 million.
Overall Future Potential: 61
Hands down, Lucas Giolito is the most athletically gifted young pitcher in this draft class. He has all of the tools for super-stardom. Baseball is a mental game, and on that side, Giolito has it knocked. He’s a bright gregarious student in the classroom and a poised, confident competitor on the mound. Physically speaking, he’s a Ferrari. Standing at a sturdy 6’6″, with a high waist, square shoulders, long arms and powerful legs, Giolito has the look of a young Roy Halladay. He is a rare athlete for a tall pitcher too, showing great body control, awareness and balance. His mechanically sound delivery is simple and repeatable. He has a clean arm action and an easy, loose weight transfer.
Though Giolito’s raw talent ranks with other top high school arms of recent drafts, like Jameson Taillon and Dylan Bundy, his development was stunted by injury. He sprained his elbow in the seventh inning of his start against Alemany high school in March and missed the majority of his senior season. Luckily however, the injury wasn’t severe enough to warrant surgery and he resumed throwing in early May.
Though Giolito sat out most of the Spring recovering from a sprained elbow ligament, he’ll end his high school career with plenty of awards and accolades anyway. Pitching alongside Max Fried and in a very competitive circuit, Giolito went 9-1 with a 1.00 ERA and 76 strikeouts through 70 1/3 innings pitched during his junior season. In the ’11 Southern Section Division II playoffs, he threw consecutive shut-outs and no-hit Arroyo Grande high school. He took home honors as Baseball America High School Pitcher of the Year and Mission League Pitcher of the Year. During last summer’s Perfect Game All-American Classic, Giolito took the mound and rather easily retired David Dahl, Skye Bolt and Carlos Correa in order. His fastball hit 97 MPH on the radar gun– the fastest mark of any pitcher at the game.
Giolito has a golden right arm. His fastball sits firmly in the 93-95 MPH range, and was clocked at 100 MPH during his first start of 2012. The ball explodes out of his hand, and flat-out overpowers opposing hitters. With long arms and a healthy stride, he gets great extension towards home plate and really gets on top of batters. Unlike most hard-throwing high school arms, Giolito maintains his velocity throughout his starts, and he rarely dips below 92 MPH when he’s healthy. He throws his heater for strikes, and though he relies mostly on a four-seamer, his mechanics and hand-strength are conducive to adding sink and a downward plane. Beyond pure velocity, his control is already good enough for the big leagues, and while his command is still a work in progress, he does a nice job of staying on top of his fastball and keeping it on sharp angles.
Beyond his heater, Giolito is armed with a nasty breaking ball and a game-worthy changeup. He throws his breaking pitch with variable velocity. He’ll drop it in the zone for knee-buckling strikes at 80-84 MPH early in the count, and will spike it in the dirt at 86-88 MPH and wipe-out opposing batters when he’s ahead, with two strikes. A power slider with depth, it’s arguably the best offspeed pitch among high school pitchers and it has the potential to be a plus-plus strikeout pitch once he harnesses his command of it. He already shows a veteran feel for his repertoire and he’s almost too comfortable throwing his slider– the high frequency probably contributed to his UCL injury.
Though his elbow injury may keep him out of the number-one slot, Giolito’s athleticism and clean delivery should re-assure teams about his future durability. He has a strong commitment to UCLA and will probably need top-three money to start his professional pitching career immediately.