The Nationals have cut short Lucas Giolito’s season after 98 innings, shutting down their top prospect in accordance with the team’s protocol for young pitchers in the final stages of rehab from Tommy John surgery, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Giolito, the Nationals’ top draft pick in 2012, underwent elbow ligament-replacement surgery shortly after the Nationals chose him 16th overall. More than two years later, Giolito has fully recovered from the operation, but the Nationals wanted to limit the strain on the 20-year-old’s still-developing right arm.
Giolito, 20, came through the year fully healthy and lived up to the high expectations placed on him in his first full (albeit truncated) professional season. In those 98 innings over 20 starts at Class A Hagerstown, Giolito went 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA, struck out 110, walked 28 and allowed 70 hits, including seven homers.
At midseason, prospect bible Baseball America ranked Giolito the No. 11 prospect in the sport and the third-best pitcher. MLB.com ranked him the 10th overall prospect and second-best pitching prospect. The league tabbed him to compete at the Futures Game, an all-star week exhibition featuring the sport’s top minor leaguers.
Giolito’s last start came Aug. 16. He allowed one earned run in five innings on seven hits and no walks, striking out five. In his final five starts, a span of 27 innings, Giolito allowed four earned runs while striking out 29 and walking three.
The Nationals followed a pattern in limiting Giolito’s innings as he returned from Tommy John surgery. The Nationals shut down Jordan Zimmermann after he pitched 161 innings in 2011. The next season, more famously, the Nationals sidelined Stephen Strasburg in the heat of a playoff race in his first full season back.
Nationals Director of Player Development Mark Scialabba referred a question about Giolito’s status to General Manager Mike Rizzo. Rizzo was unavailable for comment Friday.