The Nationals selected high schooler Lucas Giolito with their top pick in this year’s draft despite uncertainty surrounding his pitching elbow, and the right-hander sounds confident that he’ll justify the team’s decision. Considered one of the most talented players available in this year’s draft, Giolito suffered an elbow injury this March and waited last night as half of baseball’s 30 teams passed on him.
“I had no idea where I was going to go off of the board,” he told reporters on a conference call this afternoon.
Giolito has started throwing long toss -- he’s up to 300 feet -- and is also throwing “pretty hard” on flat ground. He said he expects rehabilitation, not surgery, to be the answer to his recent ligament injury.
“I’m confident that this issue is behind me,” he said, sounding more poised than most 17-year-old prospects. “I’m looking forward to getting on the mound soon.”
Giolito said he considers the Nationals a “great organization” and that he admires Stephen Strasburg's pitching style. He said he’ll join the Nationals by next month’s signing deadline if the situation is right, but noted that UCLA has an appealing baseball program that remains “a really big option” for him.
This marks the fourth consecutive season that the Nationals have drafted a player tabbed as a potential first overall talent with their top pick. They selected Anthony Rendon sixth overall last year after selecting Strasburg and Bryce Harper with the first overall selections in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Scouting director Kris Kline and general manager Mike Rizzo made Giolito the 16th overall selection last night. MLB recommends a bonus of $2.1MM for that slot; the sides have until July 13th to work out an agreement.