Having thrown 38 2/3 professional innings, 19-year-old right-hander Lucas Giolito remains more a product of projection than performance. But that vast potential – a triple-digit fastball, a physics-challenging curveball and a body like an NBA small forward – is enough to make Giolito, by consensus, one of the top prospects in baseball.
Following a season shortened by his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Giolito was named baseball’s No. 21 prospect in Baseball American’s annual Top 100 ranking. Though right-handed starter A.J. Cole and center fielder Brian Goodwin have landed on other prospect rankings, Baseball America included no other Nationals.
Scouts and executives across the sport believe Giolito, the 16th pick in the 2012 draft, has so much raw ability that he will become a top-five prospect in all of baseball simply by staying healthy this season. Nationals officials believe his pure stuff, particularly his fastball and curve, would be above-average in the major leagues right now.
Giolito still needs more seasoning before he will make an impact. He could reach the majors in late 2015 at the very earliest. Last season, after returning from Tommy John rehab, Giolito pitched at the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate and at Class A Auburn, the Nationals’ rookie ball affiliate. In 12 starts total, he struck out 39 batters in 36 2/3 innings and posted a 1.96 ERA.
The Nationals drafted Giolito just three picks before the Cardinals took 2013 postseason star Michael Wacha. They say they have no regrets. It may take a few more seasons, but they may be proved correct.