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Top prospect Lucas Giolito will join Nats at spring training, per Mike Rizzo

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Top prospect Lucas Giolito will join Nats at spring training, per Mike Rizzo

The Nationals know a thing or two about grooming some of baseball's top prospects. They did so while gearing up for Stephen Strasburg's highly-anticipated debut in 2010, and did it again two years later when they introduced the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year (and current reigning MVP) Bryce Harper to the show. 

Time will tell if the Nats' next big thing, right handed pitcher Lucas Giolito, is poised to make a 'Strasmas'-like splash once he's called up to the majors. For now, the issue is figuring out exactly when he'll get the chance to join the big club. And according to GM Mike Rizzo, Giolito is apparently ready to take the next step in his ascension. 

"He's going to come to the major league camp and be in his first major league spring training," Rizzo said at Nats WinterFest over the weekend. "We're going to obviously be a caretaker to his workload and his innings. " 

The 6-6, 255 pound Giolito was already highly touted coming out of Los Angeles' Harvard-Westlake High School, but has seen his stock steadily rise since the Nats selected him 16th overall in the 2012 MLB Draft. His best season in the minors was at 19 years old in 2014, when he went 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA and 116 strikeouts at Single-A Hagerstown. 

Virtually every major baseball publication has ranked the Giolito, now 21, as the organization's top prospect. Baseball America and MLB.com even had him rated as being among the top seven prospects in all of baseball prior to the 2015 season. Those who have scouted him have raved about the combination of his mid-to-upper 90's fastball to go along with a sharp curveball. 

There's no guarantee that Giolito will make his Nats debut in 2016, but the news that he'll be at major league camp means that his future teammates will get their first chance to see the much-ballyhooed pitcher up close. 

"I haven't seen him pitch live," Strasburg said. "I've seen some stuff in the past. My dad comes out to spring training and his dad's usually there so my dad likes going to the minor league side and talking with his dad. Met him a few times, he seems like a really good kid. Excited to see where he's at."

"Giolito throws a billion miles per hour," added Harper. "Whatever they do with him, I'd like to have him on our staff or even in the bullpen. That'd be something I'd think about." 

While talk of where Giolito might fit in the pitching staff is a bit premature, what's undebatable is that his development is one of the key storylines heading into next season. 

"We expect big things from Lucas Giolito," Rizzo said. "Not only in 2016, but down the road also."

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Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm