Baseball Prospectus evaluator examines Nats’ handling of Giolito

Nationals top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito’s record stands at 8-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 18 starts for low Single-A Hagerstown. He has pitched 88 innings and struck out 99 batters.

In his most recent start on Aug. 5, Giolito allowed an early home run and a total of three runs. But he finished five innings, scattering seven hits with no walks and five strikeouts. It was his fourth straight victory.

The Nationals have been determined to bring Giolito along slowly as he recovers from Tommy John surgery last year. In May, they limited his innings by skipping starts from May 11 to June 3.

This is the second part of my series on Giolito, based off the recent on-site observations of Baseball Prospectus talent evaluator Ryan Parker, who was in attendance for Giolito’s last start of July.

In the past three starts, Giolito has allowed three runs and 10 hits in 17 innings, all wins.

Parker said the Nationals are measuring Giolito’s innings.

“I think they are being careful,” Parker said. “The end result is for Lucas to be able to dominate at the big league level. So for now, this is first full year as a professional ballplayer. So they want him to just get used to that. But as far as the inning stuff, he’s fine, (even with) a week or two rest.”

Parker believes that Giolito is throwing free and easy as well, not forcing the issue to hit 98 mph every pitch. Scouts have told Parker that Giolito can hit that velocity level. But he is concentrating more now on his mechanics and learning to build off of each start, almost a natural progression during the season as he builds further away from the initial surgery.

“I saw nothing (July 31) that would indicate he was hurt,” Parker said. “I talked about he was only 91, 93 mph. But talking to some of the guys afterward that said he felt great. But he just didn’t want to gas it up late in the season. Especially with a kid coming off Tommy John surgery, nothing can go wrong from them being over cautious.

“It’s not like at the big league where if you shut a guy down, it risks the team losing games. Essentially no one cares for the minor leagues what their record is at the end of the year. Shutting him down for a period of time to give him extra rest, I see no fault in that.

“He is just going out there throwing 93 mph like you or I would routinely play catch with one another. He had no problem hitting his spots to both sides of the plate. He was just out there making sure he was hitting all points and making sure his mechanics were dialed in.”

There is no indication that Giolito will jump to high Single-A Potomac this season, there just isn’t enough season remaining. It is more likely that Giolito will extend into the Arizona Fall League as they keep his innings total low for 2014.

“He doesn’t need to throw high 90 mph every time,” Parker said. “He doesn’t need to put himself at risk for any other injuries. I completely understand what he was doing (in that start). I have more respect for him as a pitcher for how he approaches the game.”

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