The Curious Case of Lucas Giolito

by: Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti on Twitter)

If you just look at scouting reports, there are not too many players that jump off the page like Lucas Giolito (RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS, CA). One of the top arms in this year’s draft, Giolito is a 6-foot 6-inch, 230-pound beast (a big-league frame), and has two plus-pitches (fastball, which has already touched triple digits, and curveball) with room for a third (change-up). Last year, as a junior in high school, he went 9-1 with a 1.00 ERA, had three shutouts, and a 78:26 K:BB ratio.

Drooling yet?

Oh yeah, did I mention he won’t turn 18 until July?

How about now?

Just hearing that, Giolito sounds like a sure-fire number-one overall pick (which would make him the first high school RHP ever selected at the number one spot). But there are some serious injury concerns about him revolving around a sprained UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) he suffered in March. He started his rehabilitation recently and is working on getting back to his top form, but elbow injuries at a young age are red flags for any GM looking for an ace-type pitcher in the first round.

Giolito struggles to control his big arm (26 walks and 15 wild pitches in 70.1 innings), as most fire-balling high school pitchers do, but he can throw any pitch in any count for strikes. He does have issues commanding both sides of the plate, but again at that age most pitchers do. But you draft high school players on potential. Obviously he could learn how to control his arm and make a huge impact on the league.

Teams will be wary of drafting the Californian. He is committed to UCLA in the fall, but a first-round signing bonus could keep him from there (Astros recommended signing bonus for the number-one pick is $7.2 million). Giolito could be a dynamic pitcher and will be compared to two guys drafted just two years ago: the dominant prospect, Jameson Taillon (3-4 3.29 ERA in High-A), and the wild flamethrower, Stetson Allie (0-1 54.00 ERA). However, if he is healthy, he is worthy of the number-one overall pick.

Make sure you follow the ValleyCats team the days of the draft for more in-depth coverage. The 2012 MLB First-Year Players Draft starts June 4.

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