The Washington Nationals took a risk in drafting a talented, yet injured, power-pitcher Lucas Giolito, out of Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City, California.
While Giolito’s fastball has been clocked at nearly 100 MPH, he sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow this spring, forcing him to miss most of his senior season while undergoing rehab.
His injury didn’t deter some, like Seedling to Stars writer Robbie Knopf, who had Gilotio going early to the Chicago Cubs as the 6th overall pick. The Cubs ended up selecting OF Albert Almora. To see who Robbie predicted the Nationals to select with their 16th pick, click here.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Giolito insisted that he’ll be fully healthy by the time the Nats expect him to pitch from a mound in post-draft workouts.
He also told the Los Angeles Times that he has been treated by the same doctors from the clinic where Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman both had Tommy John surgery.
While the injury made Giolito wonder if his future in professional baseball was in jeopardy, he’s confident that the rigorous training program he pushed himself through will enable him to regain the strength in his arm and head to the Nats farm system popping mitts like he did in his high school days.
He was able to skip surgery, so his draft status didn’t take too much of a hit, as he was projected to be taken high in the first round before his injury anyway.
It’s pretty rare to see a high school kid throw 100 MPH gas as consistent as Giolito did. At times, he struggled with accuracy, and was known to be a bit wild. However, Giolito’s wildness isn’t necessarily due to mechanical flaws, but more of a confidence issue—something that the Nationals’ Minor League instructors will help him work through.
Giolito weighs in at 230 pounds, and is a tall 6-6, so his body is definitely Minor League-ready. The strength he was able to amass throughout high school ball will hopefully prevent him from favoring his elbow or tweaking his windup when he returns to the hill this summer.
If Giolito makes it out of the National’s Extended Spring Training this summer, he’ll probably end up playing for the Auburn Doubledays of the New York Penn League, the Class “A” Short Season affiliate of the Nats.
An added bonus of making it out of baseball purgatory (as “Extended” is often referred to) will be his chance to work with Doubledays’ manager Gary Cathcart, who got a chance to work with Stephen Strasburg in the Nats Minor League system after Strasburg was drafted out of San Diego State.
Cathcart is a very patient manager, and will be a perfect match for a pitcher that probably needs his confidence boosted after suffering through an injury as serious as a tweaked elbow.
Giolito’s injury makes it hard to predict where he’ll end up. It’s rare to see a high-schooler of his size throw heat as consistent as he does, but an offer to pitch collegiately at UCLA is on the table, so perhaps he’ll wind up going the college route instead, as a way to ensure his arm injury isn’t too serious.