Lucas Giolito Scouting Report (2014)
Last Thursday was a first look at the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Lucas Giolito, and suffice it to say he didn’t disappoint. When a teenage pitcher is ranked among the sport’s top prospects prior to his full-season debut, it’s a big deal. Yet, despite the inherent risk and volatility associated with high-risk/reward arms, the entire baseball industry seemed to be all-in on 19-year-old the right-hander this season.
Making his second start, Giolito, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2012 draft, fired five shutout innings against Low-A Lakewood (Phillies), allowing a hit and walk while striking out six batters. He never threw more than 17 pitches in an inning and needed only 61 to complete the outing. The lone hit he surrendered was a two-out double to Samuel Hiciano in the third inning. Besides that, it was mostly strikeouts and weak contact (six groundouts, one flyout).
Giolito’s fastball sat 92-95 mph in the outing and he maintained the velocity throughout, which was impressive on a cold, blustery New Jersey night in April. From what I could discern, Lucas Giolito used both a two- and four-seam fastball with the latter sitting in the 94-95 range. The two-seamer sat 91-93. Based on velocity alone, the pitch graded as a 65/70, but everything about Giolito — size, mechanics, arm action, prior workload — suggests that more velocity will come with development. It’s easy to envision him sitting in the upper-90’s by the time he reaches MLB.
In terms of usage, Giolito threw more four-seamers to left-handed batters, and he did a nice job changing hitters’ eye levels vertically so as to set up both secondary offerings. He overthrew a few of them, ripping open with his glove side and falling off toward first base. However, Giolito was quick to correct his mechanics during subsequent pitches and never lost a feel for the strike zone.
Lucas Giolito demonstrated a similarly strong feel for pounding the zone with his two-seamer, using it to effectively work the inner-half of the plate against right-handed batters. He even painted a few to the outside corner. Even with the weather conditions, the pitch’s relative straightness was surprising compared to the four-seamer; A a few featured modest arm-side run, but most were flat and lacked late life one would expect with Giolito’s long arms and extension toward the plate. That being said, command was strong and he confidently used it in a variety of counts.
In four years scouting baseball prospect Giolito’s curveball is the best I’ve seen. It’s a 60/65 offering with the potential to add a full grade as he moves up the ladder. Working from the same over-the-top arm angle as his fastball, the right-hander threw the curveball in the 76-83 mph range with legitimate 12-to-6 shape and sharp, downer bite—the kind the makes an evaluator’s knees buckle from behind the plate.
Beyond the natural quality of the pitch, Giolito’s confidence to throw it in virtually any count was impressive. Specifically, he showed the ability to add/subtract with the pitch depending on the batter and count, consistently throwing it in the 78-81 mph for a called strike and then throwing a harder-biting version at 82-83 when vying for a whiff. Overall, Giolito threw eight of 14 curveballs for strikes, and used the pitch to generate two of six strikeouts.
After hearing so much about Giolito’s fastball and curveball headed into the game, the changeup was a pleasant surprise. The right-hander only threw the pitch three times in the outing, each coming against a left-handed batter, but still managed to generate both a whiff and ground out (in the same at-bat against Larry Greene).
He slowed down his arm on one of them and the pitch featured little fading action, but Giolito showed the confidence to use it in fastball counts and sold it well. Though it was a small sample, Giolito’s changeup grades as a present 45/50, and considering his overall room for improvement, the pitch has the potential to a 55 offering, or better at maturity.
An area for improvement is the velocity differential between his curveball and changeup. It’s not an issue in the low minors, but may become one at the Double- and Triple-A levels where hitters are able to adjust based on velocity range.
In watching Giolito deal for five innings, it was clear the right-hander knows he’s talented and expects greatness. He failed to locate his fastball on several occasions with favorable counts and pounded his glove in disgust. He followed mistakes with a well-executed pitch.
Looks at Giolito from the stretch were limited as a result of him allowing only two base runners in five innings, but he showed balance and repeated his mechanics well. He did uncork a pair of high fastballs in the second inning after shifting to the stretch for the first time (which can be seen in the above video), but quickly corrected his tempo (after a brief conference with his catcher) toward the plate and resumed throwing strikes. Normally it’s not worth discussing command with a 19-year-old pitcher — especially one with only 46 2/3 professional innings under his belt. However, Giolito demonstrated a present feel for commanding his entire arsenal in the game, and it’s only going to improve with experience.
Giolito is entirely too good to remain at Low-A Hagerstown for an extended period of time. However, the Nationals traditionally have been careful with their Tommy John pitchers (Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Taylor Jordan), holding them to a strict innings limit in the first full year following a return to the mound. Giolito will be no different. The right-hander will be promoted this season — likely based on some type of pre-season timeline implemented by the organization. And if his start last week is an indication of what’s to come, he’ll the year in Double-A, putting him on pace for an arrival in the majors sometime in 2015. If Giolito stays healthy and continues down his current developmental path, the right-hander has the chance to be a legitimate No. 1 starter. Whether it’s his projectable body, future plus-plus arsenal or present feel for pitching — everything about Giolito screams front-of-the-rotation upside.
TOOL PRESENT FUTURE PROJECTED ROLE NO. 1 STARTER ON A FIRST-DIVISION TEAM Fastball 60 80 Curveball 60 75 Changeup 45 55 Control 50 60 Command 40 60
Owning Lucas Giolito
Lucas Giolito is a must add if still available in a fantasy baseball keeper league. In the 20-team Dynasty Guru Expert League, Giolito was drafted at the back end of the seventh round, coming off the board one pick after Zack Wheeler and before fellow prospects Taijuan Walker, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Jameson Taillon and Yordano Ventura.
14 Apr 2014 / Mike Rosenbaum / 3
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