Top prospect Giolito’s 2016 goal: “Definitely reaching the big leagues”

VIERA, Fla. - There are 21-year-olds who look totally out of place in their first big league camp. And then there’s Lucas Giolito, who stands out in the Nationals’ spring clubhouse like a sore thumb, not because he looks young and timid, but because he looks and acts the part of an established major leaguer.

At 6-foot-6, 255 lbs., Giolito towers over most of the other pitchers in this camp. And with a soft-spoken, yet confident demeanor, he already displays the poise of a ballplayer far more advanced than this.

Which probably explains why Giolito has no trouble publicly acknowledging his mission in 2016.

“Yeah, my goal is definitely reaching the big leagues,” he said Saturday morning before his first official workout in a major league camp. “There’s certain aspects (where) baseball is a business. But at the same time, I feel like if I continue to progress the way I want to, I’ll have a good shot.”

Lucas Giolito red USA.jpgGiolito certainly has the pedigree to match his quiet confidence. The Nationals’ first-round pick in the 2012 draft, he has spent the last three seasons moving his way up the organizational ladder, dominating opposing hitters at just about every level. This winter, he was named baseball’s No. 1 pitching prospect by multiple publications.

And then there’s this: Darren Baker, Dusty’s 18-year-old son, didn’t ask the new Nationals manager if he had met Stephen Strasburg or Max Scherzer or Bryce Harper on the first day of the spring. He asked if he had met Giolito.

“I mean, with all the guys in this locker room, it’s surprising he would ask if he’d met me yet,” Giolito said. “It’s an honor, it’s cool. Yeah, I’m looking forward to meeting him.”

Actually, the two had met before. It just happens that neither remembers it. Baker once visited Electronic Arts headquarters when Giolito’s father, Rick, worked there. The kid was only 6, but his dad reminded him of the encounter.

“I just met him,” Baker said Saturday afternoon. “And he said, ‘Do you remember me?’ No ... I don’t think so. I’m trying to recall ...”

Giolito then explained the backstory.

“Boy, you start feeling old after a while,” Baker laughed. “He was 6 years old, and now he’s 6-foot-6.”

Giolito already has the body of a big league pitcher, but he knows he still needs more seasoning before he deserves to be a big league pitcher. After mowing down lineups in the Single-A South Atlantic League in 2014, where he went 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA and struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings, the right-hander was a bit more human last season at high Single-A and Double-A. His combined 2015 stats with Potomac and Harrisburg: 7-7, 3.15 ERA, 1.282 WHIP.

For that reason and others, Giolito understands his purpose in this particular camp. And he’s not worried about fighting the urge to wow Nationals coaches and decision makers over the next few weeks.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “The Nationals are really good about communicating to me that this big league camp is for the experience, to be able to be around these big league guys, get this unreal coaching and just kind of feel like I’m a part and can get some good work in. It’s not really about trying to wow or impress anybody at this point.”

Giolito’s tasks here in Viera are simple: Work on perfecting his fastball command, and soak up whatever expertise he can from veterans and coaches. His day will come soon enough

“I’m not really nervous or anything like that,” he said. “Just a lot of excitement, ready to get going. ... I want this to be a big year for me. I want to make a lot of strides for my game, as well as progress through the system. It’s just to get prepared, honestly, and enjoy the experience being in big league camp.”

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