On Monday, the Washington Nationals selected Lucas Giolito with the 16th pick in the first round of the 2012 MLB draft. The 17-year-old right-hander is a dominant starting pitcher out of Harvard-Westlake School in suburban California.
This year, the Nationals' first pick was outside of the top 10 for the first time in four years. Despite their lower pick, the Nats were able to pick a player some experts originally thought would be the first overall pick.
But Giolito slid all the way to 16 due to injury concerns, as he became a risk other teams were not willing to take. The Nationals, however, have no problems taking a chance on a highly-touted prospect with injury history, as they showed last year when they selected third baseman Anthony Rendon out of Rice University with the sixth overall pick. Rendon had shoulder and ankle injuries during college, and suffered another ankle injury this season in the minor leagues.
Will Lucas Giolito overcome his own injury issues and become a successful pick for the Washington Nationals? Here are 12 reasons why the newest addition to the Washington Nationals will soon be a superstar for this franchise on the rise.
You don't need a "plus-plus" fastball to be a great pitcher in the major leagues, but it certainly helps.
David Price, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw—to name three—have all used an overpowering fastball to achieve big league success. The Nationals' own Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez have used the same recipe.
Lucas Giolito can add his name to that list. In the first start of his senior season with his Harvard-Westlake HS varsity team, Giolito hit 100 miles per hour on the radar gun.
With speed like that, Giolito is in the fast lane to success.
One hundred miles per hour is fast, but it's not unhittable. Just ask Robin Roberts, who was a flamethrower in his own right, but surrendered more home runs than any pitcher in MLB history.
Lucas Giolito will need something to keep hitters off balance, and he has just that. The Nationals' scouts described his breaking ball to the Washington Times:
He possesses a fastball that sits in the mid-90’s and has touched triple digits on occasion, but it is his curve ball that sets his talents apart.
That's a devastating one-two combination.
Throwing only two pitches against major league hitters is not going to cut it, even if those two pitches are exceptional.
Luckily, Lucas Giolito has command of three pitches. According to MLB Draft Insider, Lucas Giolito scores high with his fastball, curveball and change-up, with the potential to be even better with all three.
With multiple pitches in his arsenal, Lucas will leave hitters defenseless.
"Chicks dig the long ball," but the ladies love the strikeouts, too.
Lucas Giolito must have been very popular in high school, then. During the 2011 season—his only complete season at H-W—Lucas recorded 78 strikeouts in 70.1 innings pitched.
His strikeout numbers alone can make him a superstar, known only by a single name:
Koufax. Ryan. Fernando. Clemens. Strasburg.
Harvard-Westlake School has a good baseball team.
As proof, Max Fried of Harvard-Westlake was also selected tonight in the 2012 MLB draft. The sensational southpaw was picked seventh overall by the San Diego Padres, only nine spots ahead of his high school teammate.
It may only be high school, but it's the best competition Lucas Giolito has seen to date. And because of the school he attended, Giolito played against—and with—some of the best baseball players in the country.
That will better prepare him for the next levels of competition.
The Washington Nationals have plenty of pitching in both the majors and the minors.
They had enough depth to move former starters Craig Stammen, Tom Gorzelanny, and most recently Ross Detwiler to the bullpen, while optioning 2010 and 2011 Opening Day starter John Lannan to Triple-AAA Syracuse.
And it's more of the same in the Nationals' farm system, currently ranked 12th in Baseball America's Organization Talent Rankings. This includes 2011 draft picks Alex Meyer (above, left) and Matt Purke, as well as Sammy Solis and Daniel Rosenbaum, the biggest surprise of the minor league season so far.
This organizational pitching depth will allow Lucas Giolito to take his time in developing and not be rushed through the minor leagues. This gradual process will help him become a star.
Lucas Giolito has only sprained—not torn—his ulnar collateral ligament.
But UCL is a four-letter word in baseball.
If Giolito were to tear his UCL, the Washington Nationals would have the knowledge and experience to correctly manage his surgery, rehab and return. Both Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg have gone down that painful road, and both are back in the big leagues.
The Washington Nationals, of course, hope for the best with Lucas Giolito, but are properly prepared for the worst.
When Lucas Giolito makes it to the big leagues, he'll be under the tutelage of veteran pitching coach Steve McCatty.
McCatty has dealt with all types of pitchers in his career: from the young to the old; the good to the bad; the flame throwers to the junk ballers; the highly-touted to the completely unknown. And everyone in between.
Steve's experience will help Lucas make a smooth transition from the minors to the majors, and can help him hone his craft.
Believe it or not, the current Washington Nationals pitching staff does have a veteran presence.
Chien-Ming Wang and Edwin Jackson fought many battles before arriving in DC. Their war stories include tales of 19-win seasons, World Series victories, multiple trades and major injuries.
This pair will show Lucas Giolito what it takes to be a big leaguer, and what it takes to succeed once you become one.
Lucas Giolito won't be the only former prized pitching prospect in the Washington Nationals organization.
Right now, the Nationals starting rotation is being led by two first rounders and a second rounder:
Stephen Strasburg, first round in 2009.
Gio Gonzalez, first round in 2004.
Jordan Zimmermann, second round, 2008.
And the Nationals' farm system has several highly regarded pitchers as well:
Alex Meyer, first round in 2011.
Matt Purke, third round in 2011.
Whether he's at the minor league or major league level, Lucas Giolito will be pitching alongside other young, talented pitchers who have traveled his road before. They can tell him how to deal with the pressure, and their own stellar performances can reduce some of that very pressure.
Mike Rizzo has only been a Major League Baseball general manager for three years, and he has already established himself as one of the best in Major League Baseball.
Rizzo has completely rebuilt the organization by hiring some of the best baseball minds in the business. He has engineered several successful trades, landing such valuable pieces as relief pitcher Sean Burnett, catcher Wilson Ramos, and starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez. And he has stocked the organization's farm system by building through the draft.
But most importantly, Mike Rizzo has properly managed the minor league careers and eventual major league debuts of multiple prized prospects.
Lucas Giolito will be the next prized prospect to flourish under the watchful eye of Mike Rizzo.
Davey Johnson has the 13th best winning percentage of any manager in MLB history, minimum 1,000 games. And he has the highest such mark of any active manager. Needless to say, he knows how to win.
One of the keys to his success?
Playing his best players, regardless of their age or experience.
He has already shown this proclivity with the 2012 Washington Nationals by handing the ball to Stephen Strasburg on Opening Day despite his return from Tommy John surgery, finding playing time for Steve Lombardozzi despite a crowded middle infield, and debuting teenage sensation Bryce Harper on April 28th, much sooner than expected.
If Lucas Giolito is good enough to play, Johnson will find a way to get him into the game. And the only way a player can become a superstar is if he's actually playing.