Entering the 2012 Amateur Draft, it was unclear who the Nationals would take with the 16th overall pick. Just before 9 pm on Monday, the Nats picked Lucas Giolito and surprised the baseball world once again.
With the Giolito pick, you can argue that the Nats got the top prospect five times in the last four seasons. Starting with Stephen Strasburg in 2009, the Nats followed with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Matt Purke, and now Giolito. Rendon was a consensus No. 1 pick before dropping due to injury and the same goes for Purke in the same year due to shoulder issues. Giolito was shut down with a strained ligament in his elbow not long before this selection.
Even though the Nats have drafted a couple injury plagued players in the last few years, they’ve smartly determined that the upside far outweighs the possibility that the players will never recover from the injuries. Sure, Rendon, Purke, and Giolito all have faced injury issues close to the draft, but if it turns out that any of those players are healthy, the upside far outweighs the risks.
The Nationals have an incredible amount of pitching depth, and they had even more before the trade for Gio Gonzalez. This is GM Mike Rizzo’s first step in replenishing the farm system, and he made the right call. He could have made an easy selection by choosing an inexpensive college student, but he didn’t. He made the expensive high risk, high reward decision.
With Giolito’s elbow issues, it immediately conjures up images of Stephen Strasburg’s and Jordan Zimmermann’s UCL tears and subsequent Tommy John surgeries. While Rizzo took a calculated risk with this signing, Giolito, once a projected No. 1 overall draft pick, projects to be a top of the rotation starter.
Even if the worst happens, and Giolito requires Tommy John surgery, the success rate is so high at this point with that surgery it seems like a no brainer to take the risk. If Giolito doesn’t work out, the Nats will move on with what looks like an extremely successful team in the coming years. If he does, the Nationals will continue to add incredibly talented pitching to an already impressive staff.
Giolito is young, and he likely won’t show up in the majors as quickly as Strasburg did. However, if he’s able to make an impact for the Nats in the next couple of years, Rizzo will be lauded as one of the most aggressive and underrated GM’s in baseball. He’s well on his way to that honor and drafting Giolito continues to push him in that direction.