BY PETER HAILEY
Nationals fans' expectations for pitching prospect Lucas Giolito are already incredibly high. A recent list published by one site will only increase the hype around 21-year-old, however -- even though that seems nearly impossible.
Everyone in the Washington organization is anticipating Giolito's debut the same way Game of Thrones watchers anticipate a new episode, and with Giolito being promoted to Double-A a few days ago, that momentous day seems to be inching closer. But while watching a young Giolito first take the mound in the MLB will surely be thrilling, Bleacher Report is more excited about what he'll look like in five years.
Last Thursday, the site released a rankings of who they believe will be the top 20 starting pitchers in 2020, and after seeing where Giolito landed in the projections, it's safe to say they think just as highly of him as the team's front office does.
When compiling the names to make up their list, Bleacher Report looked at factors such as command, pitch repertoire, durability and upside, then graded each player on a 95 point scale. And after all was said and done, the young Giolito checked in at No. 7, with author Joel Reuter raving about Giolito's upside.
"Giolito is probably the top pitching prospect in baseball right now, as the 21-year-old has impressed every step of the way since getting healthy," Reuter said. "He has legitimate ace potential and could just be reaching his prime in 2020."
Reuter is particularly impressed by the right hander's arsenal of pitches, and how he can place them wherever he wants.
"For a power pitcher with electric stuff, Giolito has also flashed command beyond his years during his time in the minors," he said. "He has a 2.7 BB/9 rate for his career and has issued just 18 free passes in 63.2 innings of work so far this season."
Overall, Reuter, an MLB Columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009, thinks Giolito gives the Nats a talented piece in the rotation that could help the franchise make some tough choices in the future a little more confidently.
"The Nationals have some decisions to make with Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister headed for free agency this offseason and Stephen Strasburg doing the same the following year," Reuter said. "Letting one or more of those guys walk will be made easier by the presence of Giolito."
Giolito was the only member of D.C.'s baseball team to end up in the top 20, but a slew Nationals arms found themselves right on the bubble, only to be left out for a couple of reasons. Stephen Strasburg was apparently given "strong consideration" but was denied a place in the rankings due to the many question marks surrounding him. Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann, meanwhile, were excluded "because of age and expected regression."
The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw was slotted in at the No.1 spot, with the White Sox's Chris Sale and the Pirates' Gerrit Cole rounding out the top three.