Even without picking first overall, or even in the top, the Nationals managed to make a major splash and set up a contract staredown with their first choice in the MLB draft.

The Nationals drafted California prep star Lucas Giolito with their first-round pick in Monday night’s MLB draft, the 16th overall pick. Giolito, a right-handed power pitcher from Harvard-Westlake High in Studio City, Calif., spent most of the year as a possible No. 1 overall pick, but a strained ligament in his pitching elbow moved him down draft boards.

His asking price remained high, which combined with the health risk scared away many teams. But Giolito can throw his fastball 100 miles per hour, and the Nationals decided his talent made him worth the risk, and so they took the gamble.

“When he’s 100 percent, he goes top 3 in this draft,” Nationals scouting director Kris Kline said. “It’s kind of a no-brainer.”

Nationals Assistant General Manager/Vice President Roy Clark doubled down on the “no brainer” comment and compared Giolito to Phillies ace Roy Halladay. “So we’d take that every year in the draft.”

By drafting Giolito, the Nationals took a player considered at least at some point to be the potential first overall pick for the fourth straight year. Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are obvious, and Anthony Rendon could have been 1-1 if not for his shoulder injury.

If the Nationals stick to the recommended slot signing bonus, they will spend $2.125 million to sign Giolito — but it will almost certainly take more. The Nationals could try to sign him for less in order to use more of their draft spending cap, which was mandated by restrictive punishments in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Teams will face steep, prohibitive fines if they exceed their total allotment, which for the Nationals is $4.4 million.

The Nationals, represented after the draft in Secaucus, N.J., by Assistant General Manager Bob Boone and minor league evaluator Pat Corrales, will have to wait until the 80th overall pick, their second-round choice, to make their next selection. Their next pick will come at 111 overall, in the third round. Last year, because of compensation picks, the Nationals made three of the first 34 picks and four of the first 96.