Lucas Giolito is one of the more elite arms in this year's draft. He has a fastball that sits in the mid 90s, a sharp breaking curve ball that he throws at 81-82 mph, and he's got a change up that he doesn't use a whole lot at the high school level. He was pitching well for a few starts at the beginning of the season, flashing his fastball at 100mph and showing enough potential to be considered as a possibility of 1-1 in the MLB first-year player draft in June. That is until he had to leave a game with arm discomfort. An MRI the next day showed something disconcerting; he had a strained sprained ulnar collateral ligament. What this means is that he will most likely need to have Tommy John surgery in the near future. This brings up several questions.
Will he have an injury-prone career? This is surely something Jeff Luhnow and Bobby Heck are asking themselves. The Astros can't afford to pick a player who will be injury-prone with the first-overall pick. In the past when teams have picked high-school arms who had injuries around draft time, there were a few players who suffered repeated injuries. Namely such a pitcher was Kyle Gibson of the Twins who had a stress fracture in his pitching arm while he was drafted. He was rated #4 overall in the 2009 draft, but dropped to 22nd overall to the Twins in the draft. He pitched for a year and a half until he needed Tommy John surgery. He will miss all of the 2012 season. Such risks like these are something that the Astros probably don't want to deal with on the first pick of the draft, especially considering the time needed to develop him since he's a HS arm, and the potentially loss of time if he ever has to have Tommy John surgery.
Well, if we're thinking of an absolute worst case scenario, taking in consideration his current development and injuries, he could end up being a minor league relief pitcher with poor command. Or, a more likely floor scenario would be that he would make a good major league bullpen relief pitcher.
Giolito is very projectable with a big 6'7'' frame and two really really good pitches in his fastball and curveball. He's young and if he can gain better control of his pitches and develop his changeup further, he could be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher when all is said and done. Think of Justin Verlander.
Projected Draft Round
Giolito will most likely be a top-10 pick in the first round, with Keith Law suggesting he could be a top-5 pick overall. As of 9 days ago, Law has Giolito going #3 overall to the Mariners. Giolito has a lot of potential, but what may be holding him back is his injury history, as well as injury potential. As we saw with Anthony Rendon last year, he dropped all the way to the Nationals, but this year Rendon has another ankle injury. Injury will probably be a key factor when teams are looking to draft in the first round.
Will he sign?
Well, if the Astros pick him, I can see Giolito signing unless he feels he is being low-balled for money. I don't really know if this is what the Astros will do, but if Scott Boras is his agent, he can say hello to his college commitment, UCLA. If he feels his signing bonus may be a bit low, he could go to college to raise his stock. However, there is only so much he can do and the potential for him dropping to a later slot in the draft a couple years from now could be a bit high. With the new salary caps, if I were him, I would try to sign now.
Bibliography after the jump
If healthy, easily the top high school arm in the draft. One of very few prospects in this draft with even an outside chance to develop into a number one starter. Doesn’t require a lot of projection to see two 70-grade pitches. CH could be a third plus pitch in time, giving his arsenal depth and plenty of ability to keep hitters off balance. Command is still developing but has projection. Excellent body and long term physical projection, despite present injury concerns. Easy projection as a number two starter with some feeling that he could up that if the command and CH come along as hoped. Potential front of the rotation piece with All-Star and Cy Young possibilities.
Giolito isn't the first pitching prospect to be hit with an injury, and he certainly won't be the last. No matter how fluid and easy a delivery appears, the pitching motion is still an unnatural act for the body. And for all the swings and misses that come with being able to hit triple digits on the radar gun, that amount of power puts even more strain on the shoulder and elbow. The number of pitchers whose promising careers have been sidetracked or stalled by injury is astronomic. For every hit (like Justin Verlander, the first pitcher picked in the 2004 MLB draft), there's at least a couple misses (like Bryan Bullington and Kyle Sleeth, the first pitchers chosen in 2002 and 2003, respectively). And more often than not, those misses are due to injury rather than a lack of talent.
At 6'7" Lucas Giolito has projectability written all over him. When you see that he already reaches 96 MPH with his fastball and has room to add on 25-30 pounds to his frame, you understand why he is considered one of the top prep prospects for the 2012 Draft. Giolito has a smooth delivery and has taken great strides in repeating it. He also features a power 12-6 curveball that has plus potential and an improving change that features depth and could also be a plus pitch. His command could use some work and he could incorporate his lower half more to help maintain his mechanics. He threw a no-hitter in the spring and it will be interesting to see how he fares with Team USA 18U squad in the fall. No 2012 prep pitcher has more upside than Lucas Giolito and he is definitely one of the top follows over the next year.