Nationals first-round pick Lucas Giolito will undergo Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, a diagnosis confirmed Wednesday when he received a second opinion from physician Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles. Yocum, the same doctor who operated on both Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, will perform the surgery Aug. 31.
The Nationals drafted Giolito with the 16th overall pick and signed him at the deadline to a $2.925 million signing bonus. The Nationals chose Giolito, 18, with the expectation that he may need Tommy John surgery. He spent his senior high school season in Southern California rehabbing from a strained elbow ligament.
Giolito made his professional debut in the Florida Gulf Coast League on Aug. 14, throwing two innings. But in the aftermath, the pain he had spent months recovering from returned, and the need for surgery arose. The Nationals were aware of the scenario that could unfold, and in a way they are lucky it happened now – in two years, if all goes well, they will have a 20-year-old with a rebuilt elbow who can throw 100 miles per hour.
Giolito may have been the first overall pick this season if not for his injury risk combined with the high price to sign him. The Nationals believed his talent – he throws a wicked fastball and a powerful curveball – and his build (6 feet 6, 230 pounds) made him well worth taking.
They may still reap the rewards. But now, officially, it will simply take a little longer.