The baseball recovery clock from Tommy John started on Aug. 31, 2012, for Lucas Giolito.
But before that day, the Nationals and baseball gurus got a small window into the immense potential that made Giolito the team’s No. 1 selection in the 2012 draft.
The 6-foot-6, 225-lb., flame throwing right-hander out of Santa Monica, Calif., pitched two innings for Gulf Coast Nationals and then-manager Tripp Keister saw quickly why the Nationals have such high hopes for the 18-year-old.
Giolito was with Keister, now the Single-A Hagerstown Suns’ manager, and the GCL Nats for most of the summer, working out and rehabbing from his high school elbow injury.
“We got a chance to see his work ethic and work habits, the way he went about his business,” Keister said. “I know he threw in two innings in one game and I know he had his surgery, but just having him out there, getting used to professional baseball every day and being out there learning was good for him too.”
Baseball America has taken notice of Giolito. He is ranked No. 2 in Baseball America’s top 10 list of Nationals prospects.
Baseball America national writer Aaron Fitt is excited about the Nationals’ selection of Giolito in the most recent draft.
“I thought that was such a great pick,” said Fitt. “It was so bold. It was very savvy for (the Nats). This is a player on talent might have been the best player available in the draft last year.”
Fitt says this pick could turn out to be a historic selection for the Nationals because of the raw potential and ability Giolito displayed in high school.
“If healthy, he might have been the first (high school) right-hander ever to go No. 1 overall,” Fitt said. “It was a high price tag to take him at No. 16. You had to stretch your bonus pool, do anything you can to save money in rounds two through 10 in order to get this guy signed because he comes from a wealthy family and he wanted to go to UCLA.
“He would have had no problems going to school if he didn’t get the kind of offer he was looking for. It was such a bold move. They really put their entire draft around him. It reminded you of (running back) Ricky Williams years ago with the (New Orleans) Saints. This was their draft with Giolito. I think he is going to pay off.”
And with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and others as guides, plus medical technology and advancement to date with Tommy John ligament reconstruction procedures, there is a very good chance that Giolito can come back stronger than before. Fitt says that would make the Giolito pick sensational for the Nationals, based on just the elusive pitches the young hurler can deliver.
“I think he can be a legitimate No. 1 starter if he comes back from Tommy John with no issues,” Fitt said. “He has an electric fastball, getting it up to 99 mph. I heard last January he got it up to 100 mph. I saw the wipeout downer curveball, 82 to 86 mph. This is not a slider. It is a true curveball, just really hard, and he has got a feel for it. He has a changeup, it is not as developed, but he also has a feel for that pitch, but I think it could be another plus offering.”
“So we are talking about a physical guy who works downhill and competes. He has a great work ethic and he has electric stuff. There is nothing not to like about this guy if he is healthy.”
Keister said he and his staff got a firsthand look at what baseball meant to Giolito and his focus on getting better, his willingness to put the work in to learn the game, even at just 17.
“He was out there every day, working hard, getting better,” Keister observed. “He was going through all of our defensive drills, going through (every drill) with the pitchers, doing his throwing program to build his arm strength back up. It was good for him being out there every day seeing what he has to do.”