Player: Lucas Giolito
Organization: Washington Nationals
Acquired: 1st round (16th overall), 2012 amateur draft
HT: 6’6 WT: 225+
Twitter Scouting Report: Classic power pitcher with polish. Some mechanical red flags, but special combo of stuff and command.
Giolito entered his senior season of high school as the consensus top prospect in the 2012 draft class. Earned the moniker “Ex Lax”, presumably because of the effect he had on even the best high school hitters. Giolito missed all of his senior season rehabbing his elbow, and slipped all the way to no. 16, where the Nationals nabbed him and signed him away from a hard commitment to UCLA. The Harvard Westlake product had Tommy John as last season came to a close, and began working his way back this year in the Gulf Coast League. He’s missed a ton of bats and the Nationals have stretched him out to five innings, so it’s been a huge developmental year for Ex Lax.
Giolito’s four-seam fastball features plus-plus velocity and exceptional downhill plane. He gets on top of it and pounds it to both sides of the plate. It sat 94-96 when I saw him, and there was a phantom 98 on my gun in one inning, which may have been real. I’ve spoken to people who have seen him dial it up to 100 this season, so the 98 I saw may have been real. Giolito has plus fastball command, knowing which spots to hit and how to hit them. This is a legitimate 70-grade pitch.
His power curveball has 70-grade potential as well. He will elevate his arm slot and pronate the forearm on it, and the pitch will flash plus-plus depth. Giolito’s curve is consistently tight, and will show legitimate 7 bite. This is another pitch that he commands extremely well, and he is never afraid to throw it. In the above video, he backdoors a left-handed hitter with a deep curveball. Sitting in the low-to-mid-80s, it’s at least a Major League average pitch right now.
The changeup is Giolito’s worst pitch, and it has plus potential. He knows how to throw it, allowing his grip and the drag of his back side to do most of the work for him. His arm is a little slower when he throws it, but not blatantly slow. He showed one filthy, drop-off-the-table changeup that began belt high then clipped the bottom third of the zone against a left-handed hitter. It has some fade to it, but it’s really a deceptive pitch that moves late, and works extremely well with his other weapons. The pitch worked in the 83-84 range.
Giolito established the changeup earlier in counts the second time through the order, knowing that hitters were looking for a 96-mph heater. Down the line, he should be able to get creative with his mix of the curveball and changeup following his fastball. The package of stuff is absolutely filthy, and the command of every offering is what really impressed me.
Giolito’s mechanics are a legitimate concern. He does a lot of things well, mostly using his lower half, getting his back side through most of the time. Giolito keeps his stride closed and leans heavily onto his front foot after strike. This screws up his posture, but does allow him to get a higher release point and more plane on the ball.
Unless he makes drastic changes, he’s going to need a much stronger pair of legs underneath him. He’s got very poor balance with his front side, and this often leads to him falling off to his left after his back side comes through.
There’s not a ton of momentum into foot strike, but he does generate some positive hip torque as he lifts his front leg. There’s some momentum there, but room for much more.
His arm action is incredible fast, but also very long, with a lot of strain put on his shoulder. He pulls his arm back all the way then flings it through with insane arm speed. As he does this he jerks his torso and head down pretty violently.
His issues are fixable, but may not be worth fixing. The pure stuff is exceptional, as is his command and his control. “Fixing” Giolito could mean ruining Giolito.
Role: Very good no. 2 starter for a first division team. Consistent All-Star.