Injury Is Only Obstacle for Lucas Giolito as Washington Nationals Sign Top Pick

Robert WoodCorrespondent IJuly 14, 2012

The Washington Nationals signed pitcher Lucas Giolito to a professional contract on Friday, locking up the 16th overall from the 2012 MLB Draft (LA Times)

Lucas attended Harvard-Westlake School in southern California and was a teammate of Max Fried, the San Diego Padres' seventh overall pick at this year's draft.  Giolito was clocked at 100 MPH on opening day of his senior season (Max Preps), and also has a devastating curve ball (CSN Washington). 

The 17-year-old was originally considered one of the top prospects for this year's draft. But leading up to the draft, there were two major obstacles to his major league stardom: signability and injury history.

Signability was an issue because Major League Baseball was not the only option for Lucas Giolito after graduating from high school.  Despite being a top prospect, Giolito had already signed with in-state power UCLA.  So, the Nationals had stiff competition for this prized pitcher, in addition to the other MLB teams interested in the right-hander. 

Once the Nationals did draft Giolito, signing him to a contract would not be guaranteed. 

But General Manager Mike Rizzo was indeed able to sign Lucas Giolito.  The contract included a $2.925 million signing bonus—$800,000 over slot value for the 16th pick (Hardball Talk).  The value of the bonus increased because the contract was not signed until 30 seconds before the Friday deadline of 5:00 PM EDT.  Lucas Giolito took it all in stride, however, as told to the LA Times: "It's pretty funny.  There was 30 seconds to go."

So the first issue has been resolved.  That leaves Giolito's injury history. 

Lucas sprained the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow in March, and did not pitch the rest of the season.  That is the same ligament that, if torn, would require Tommy John surgery. 

But there is hope.  According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, there has been slow but steady progress:

Giolito, who turns 18 on Saturday, will report to the Nationals’ complex in Viera, Fla., to continue his rehabilitation from the strained ligament injury. The Nationals will monitor Giolito and have not planned whether or not he will pitch at one of their minor league affiliates this season. Giolito has been playing long toss, but has yet to pitch off a mound. 

Once Lucas Giolito fully recovers from this injury, his biggest obstacle to major league stardom will be finding competition good enough to challenge him.