Our No. 1 target, Lucas Giolito, is the teammate of our No. 2 prospect, Max Fried, and the Blue Jays’ representatives might break out in a dance in front of Bud Selig if either Harvard-Westlake pitcher is available when Toronto picks at No. 17 overall. Like we did last year, we’ll also be hosting a live chat throughout the entire first round starting at 7 p.m. ET, so make sure to pop by.
The players on our list are not who are considered to be the “best” players in the draft, but rather who could realistically be around when the Jays take the podium and who we would like to see the Blue Jays go after, with an emphasis on the latter.
Previous articles in the series:
No. 2 – Max Fried
No. 3 – Lance McCullers
No. 4 – Zach Eflin
No. 5 – Corey Seager
No. 6 – Courtney Hawkins
No. 7 – Chris Stratton
No. 8 – Richie Shaffer
No. 9 – Nick Travieso
No. 10 – Lucas Sims
No. 11 – Andrew Heaney
No. 12 – Joey Gallo
2012 MLB Draft Preview
No. 1: Lucas Giolito
RHP | 17 years old / 6’6” 230 lbs
Born: July 14, 1994
High School: Harvard-Westlake HS (Studio City, California)
College Commitment: UCLA
Baseball America Rank: 9 (5th among pitchers)
ESPN/Keith Law Rank: 8 (4th among pitchers)
- Has garnered comparisons to Roy Halladay
- 2012 Rawlings 1st team All American
- Father is the former Vice President of video game giant EA and co-founder of Trilogy Studios
From the 2011 Perfect Game All American Classic (via MLB Prospect Portal):
Giolito pitching at the Urban Youth Academy in February, 2012 (via Bullpen Banter):
Prior to suffering a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow in March of this year, Lucas Giolito was quite possibly the best pitching prospect in the draft. He’s only 17 years old –- and won’t turn 18 until after the July signing deadline –- but he looks like a man in his early to mid 20’s. Giolito stands an imposing 6-foot-6, and with 230 pounds of lean muscle on his broad frame, drawing comparisons to this generation’s most dominant pitcher, Roy Halladay. The comparisons aren’t founded solely on the body type, though. Giolito’s work ethic is tenacious, as he’s always looking for ways to improve himself, both in between innings and starts. Trevor Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, has made the long-toss program famous over the last two years. As the name implies, the program is based around focusing on long tossing in between outings in an effort to build and maintain a strong, healthy throwing arm. According to Baseball America, one scout has described Bauer’s long-toss regimen as “kid stuff” compared to Giolito’s throwing program.
The arm strength is understandably fantastic, which allows Giolito to generate tremendous amounts of arm speed in his delivery. It’s been said scouts are in love with how easy his delivery is, and after watching the video, it’s easy to agree. He has a simple, repeatable delivery with a smooth arm action from a high three-quarter arm slot. It’s even been said his mechanics are too easy, and that he may need to increase the tempo to prevent base runners from taking advantage of him. Many high school pitchers are based around projection and added strength, but with a horse like Giolito, all he needs to do is keep in shape and maintain his athleticism.
With his pitch arsenal, Giolito has legitimate No. 1 starter potential. His fastball is the attention grabber, as it sits in the 94-96 mph range with frequent visits to the high 90’s. He has been clocked as high as 100 mph, which is almost mind-boggling for a 17 year old, though it speaks to how far strength and conditioning programs have come over the last five to ten years. The pitch isn’t based solely on velocity, as it has explosive life as it hits the zone. His height and delivery allow for easy downward movement, making the fastball difficult to create loft against. It could be argued it’s there already, but the pitch has 70 potential.
Giolito’s curveball has similar potential; the biggest difference is his lack of present consistency. He throws the pitch in the 80-82 mph range, with tight spin and break so sharp it regularly buckles the knees of his opposition. In addition to the “traditional” curveball, Giolito has been working on developing what he calls a “wipeout” curveball. The secondary curve is significantly harder, with pitch velocity an almost unfathomable 84-87 mph. The curveball is his primary swing-and-miss pitch, and according to Perfect Game, most scouts agree his curve could actually be better than his fastball when he has fully developed.
Not that he has needed it to this point, but Giolito also throws a straight changeup. In terms of both present and future grades, it’s well behind both his fastball and curve(s), with potential grades ranging from average to plus. He maintains arm speed well, which is significant as most high school pitchers can’t help but slow their arms down when throwing lower velocity pitches. Giolito’s changeup sits in the 82-84 mph range, which is a solid 12 mph of separation from his fastball.
Giolito has shown no issues with finding the strike zone, but precisely locating his pitches is something he still needs work on. He pounds his fastball in the lower half, but he’s still learning to punch the corners with consistency. He’s mostly a control pitcher now, but should develop at least above average command, if not better. Given that he’s only 17 years old, there’s plenty of time to clean up the details.
Why the Blue Jays could be interested:
Prior to injuring his elbow earlier this spring, Giolito was in contention for the first overall spot in the draft. What makes that even more impressive is that, in the history of the draft, no high school right handed pitcher has ever been selected in that spot. While the strength at the top of the draft is below average this year, that still would have been a huge honor.
It has been widely suggested that because of the injury, Giolito could fall or go undrafted altogether, as with the new structure of the CBA, most teams simply cannot afford to take him; most, but not all. The Blue Jays are one of the few teams outside the top six or seven who could select Giolito without completely crippling the rest of their draft. As I mentioned in the draft preview, the Blue Jays have nearly $8.9 million to spend in the first 10 rounds, so while dropping $4 million-plus on one player would hurt, they could still acquire decent talent with some other picks. Another thing to consider is the 5% taxed threshold over their budget with which a team can spend without losing future picks. For the Blue Jays, that means an extra 441 thousand “invisible” dollars in their budget.
Financially, the Blue Jays can make it work. The real question is how badly Giolito wants to go pro at this point. He comes from a very wealthy family, so while no one would laugh at four or five million dollars, Giolito has the advantage of not desperately needing it and can base his decision on other factors. UCLA is a well respected baseball program (they produced two of the top three picks in the 2011 draft), so it’s possible he sees college as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that’s too good to pass up. On the other hand, Toronto has shown a lot of ability with developing pitchers, and by taking the professional route it’s likely he’d be in the Major Leagues before 2015, when he’d be draft eligible next. Once Houston has decided on the first overall pick, Lucas Giolito will be the name to watch. Here’s hoping he finds his way north of the border.
The pre-draft coverage here at Jays Journal is now complete, but as we mentioned earlier, we’re going to have a live chat during the first round of the draft, so make sure you stick around to talk about what could be a shocking and exciting evening. For all Jays Journal updates and constant Blue Jays content in less than 140 characters, follow Jared (@Jared_Macdonald) and I (@KyleMatte) on the Twitter.