The Washington Nationals are looking to turn their season around, not something you often hear of a first place team. But having lost 7 of 8, the Nationals now have to face the second place Mets, looking to erase their 3 game deficit in the division. Even more worrisome for the Nationals, they won’t have one of their aces, Stephen Strasburg, who went on the 15-day DL with a back injury. The Nationals’ starting rotation is in flux.
Today, Dusty Baker announced that top Washington prospect Lucas Giolito would be coming up from the minors to make at least one spot start against the Mets on Tuesday. It’s been a long road for Giolito, who was drafted 4 years ago, and dealt with many injury concerns along the way. Tuesday night, he will get a taste of the major leagues.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. He was 5-3 This Year in AA with a 3.17 ERA
Giolito actually hasn’t even pitched at the AAA level yet. He’s being recalled directly from AA, where he was doing fairly well for himself. In 14 starts for the Harrisburg Senators, Giolito was 5-3 with a 3.17 ERA. He also struck out 72 batters in 71 innings, somewhat below the ratio he had in lower leagues but still maintaining an impressive K/9 ratio of over 9.
Still, there are some concerning factors in Giolito’s AA tenure so far that could be worrisome if they appear Tuesday night. He’s had a notable decrease in control this year, walking 34 batters in those 72 innings. Combined with the 67 hits he’s given up, that’s a 1.42 WHIP. It’s significant higher than the 1.00 WHIP from his 2014 season in single-A, or even his 1.28 WHIP across two leagues last year.
2. Giolito Was the Nationals’ 1st Round Pick in 2012, and Had Tommy John Surgery After Signing
Giolito, with his electric stuff, could have been drafted even high than he was. But Giolito, who pitched for Harvard-Westlake High School in California, sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. This scared off a number of teams, allowing him to fall to the Nationals at number 16 in the first round.
He decided to sign with the Nationals, as opposed to playing college ball for UCLA, due to their experience and track record regarding pitchers and Tommy John surgery. Not long after signing, Giolito underwent the surgery. His trust in the Nationals organization worked out – 11 months after the surgery, he successfully pitched in a minor league game.
3. He Has Been Ranked as the Top Right-Handed Pitching Prospect in Baseball
With the surgery out of the way, Giolito blazed his way up the lists of top prospects. Prior to the 2014 season, Baseball America ranked him 21st in their top 100 prospects, with just one year of minor league experience under his belt. Come 2015, he had shot all the way up to become MLB.com’s number one right-handed pitching prospect in all of minor league baseball, and the third highest general prospect.
The MLB.com scouting report on Giolito attributed this high ranking to his multiple top-tier pitches that he can throw. Not only does he have a blistering fastball that can top 100 MPH, but a 12-to-6 curveball that they said is “with a lot of power, and it is nearly as good as his fastball.” His change-up, they said, was improving and becoming a weapon against left-handed batters.
4. He Pitched Two Scoreless Innings Against the Mets in Spring Training
Tuesday night is Giolito’s major league debut, and he’s facing the Mets. But earlier in the year, he got the chance to face the Mets in a March Spring Training game in the Grapefruit League. A March 18th start saw him pitch two scoreless innings against New York, impressing a lot of people.
He allowed just one hit, to third baseman David Wright, a player Giolito looked up to as a child. Wright’s hit and a Lucas Duda walk were his only baserunners, both in the first. His second inning saw him throw just 9 pitches, ending on a strikeout of catcher Kevin Plawecki.
5. His Mother and Grandfather Are Professional Actors, and His Uncle Co-Created Twin Peaks
Giolito’s passion is baseball, but many other members of his family chose the entertainment industry instead. His mother and grandfather, Lindsay and Warren Frost, are actors. Lindsay is most likely best known for her recurring role in As the World Turns in the mid-80s. Warren is a successful character actor known for recurring roles on Seinfeld and Matlock, as well as a more major role on the iconic hit show Twin Peaks.
Twin Peaks, interestingly enough, was co-created by Warren’s son and Lucas’s uncle, Mark Frost. Frost co-created the program with David Lynch after years of working on his craft on the writing staff of Hill Street Blues. He also wrote the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four films. In addition, Frost is a novelist with several books, both fiction and non-fiction.