Nats No. 1 prospect: Lucas Giolito

Drum roll please, it’s time to announce Baseball America’s No. 1 Nats prospect.

It is, of course, 19-year-old right-hander Lucas Giolito, which comes as no surprise.

Giolito rebounded from Tommy John surgery to post solid numbers in his first true pro season within the Nationals organization.

In eight games with Rookie-level Gulf Coast Nationals and three starts at short-season Single-A Auburn, Giolito went 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 11 starts. In 36 2/3 innings, Giolito struck out 39 batters, walked only 14, and surrendered just 28 hits and eight earned runs.

Baseball America national writer Aaron Fitt said Giolito deserves all the accolades, because even as a teenager, the kid was advanced in his pitching ability.

“I think the guy is pretty special,” Fitt said. “I think he has a chance to be a legitimate No. 1 starter in the big leagues. And that is not something we throw around too often. You got a guy with his combination of elite velocity, really a well above-average curveball. (Nationals pitching coordinator) Spin Williams is somebody who has said it is maybe the best curveball he has ever seen. That is a lot of statement for a guy that has been around the game for a long time.”

Fitt said scouts noticed all this from Giolito a while back at Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City, Calif. The Nationals were able to select Giolito with the 16th pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and sign him. After surgery, Giolito was back with the Nationals last summer.

“It is nothing new,” Fitt said. “Going back to high school, (Giolito) had that hammer. That had people talking about him out of high school as potentially being the first high school right-hander ever to be the No. 1 pick. He had that kind of buzz before he got hurt. I think he is special.

“He has got a feel for pitching and he is developing a changeup. I think he is teachable. He has great makeup. He is the whole package.”

Expect the 6-foot-6, 225-lb., right-hander to log some innings now with low Single-A Hagerstown early in the season. If he dominates, Giolito could be called up for the second half of the high Single-A Potomac season. Maybe sooner.

It will be exciting to see the young starter get closer to D.C. and see what he can do against the South Atlantic League. If early returns are any indication, Giolito will be a fast mover.

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