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."