Age on Opening Day 2016: 21
How acquired: 1st round pick, 2012 draft
Position: Starting pitcher
Prospect Rank: No. 1 in Nats' org. (Baseball America)
2015 Level/Team: Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg
2015 Stats: (two teams) 21 G, 19 GS, 3.15 ERA, 117 IP, 113 H, 45 R, 41 ER, 3 HR, 37 BB, 131 SO, 6 HBP, 9 WP, 1.282 WHIP, 7-7, 10.1 SO/9, 3.54 K/BB
2015 Analysis: In his third season back from Tommy John surgery, Lucas Giolito continued to make strides as one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He began the 2015 season with the Single-A Potomac Nationals and made 13 appearances there (11 starts) before moving on to Double-A.
With the P-Nats, Giolito posted a 2.71 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings. He was especially good over his last seven starts in Potomac when he held a 0.96 ERA (4 ER in 37.1 IP). That earned him a promotion to Harrisburg where he made his Double-A debut on July 28.
Much like his time in Potomac this season, Giolito struggled initially at Harrisburg before settling in to dominate for an extended stretch. He allowed 10 earned runs across 10 innings in his first two starts before holding a 2.41 ERA in his final six.
Giolito finished the season with 131 strikeouts to 37 walks in 117 total innings. In 2016, he will hope to improve on his walks and also cut down on wild pitches and hit batters as he continues to get better command of the strike zone.
2016 Outlook: Drafted in 2012 out of high school, Giolito is still a very young pitcher as he turns 22 in July. But with the expected departures of both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, there could be room in the Nationals' rotation out of spring for the 6-foot-6 right-hander. As of now, at least.
The Nats rotation currently projects like this: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross and Tanner Roark. Unless they make a move, Giolito could easily challenge to join that mix if he has a good spring and if the Nats see him as ready for the majors.
But if Mike Rizzo's track record as GM is any indication, that projected starting five will not end up looking the same come February. The Nats under Rizzo have added a starter every offseason and many times in unexpected moves. It would not be surprising at all if they traded for a veteran starter like they once did for Gonzalez and Fister.
Even if the Nationals add a starter this offseason, Giolito will likely debut at some point in 2016. And if he does, questions of his innings limit could become an issue. Giolito finished with 117 innings in 2015, which would set him up for somewhere around 140-160 innings next season. If they start him on the big league roster in April, we could have a whole new shutdown discussion with the Nationals expected to be back in playoff contention next September.