There is always going to be a lot of hype that comes along with being a first-round draft pick. That has been the case for Lucas Giolito, who was selected 16th overall by the Washington Nationals back in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft. He soared through the minors, making his big-league debut in 2016 with the Nats. He struggled though and was eventually traded in December of 2016 to the Chicago White Sox along with two other prospects for outfielder Adam Eaton.
His first two years with the South Siders was very disappointing, as he led the American League in walks and earned runs last year. But in 2019, it has all clicked for the former top prospect. Giolito is having a banner year, sporting a 2.28 ERA with a 9-1 record. The 6-foot-6 righty has struck out 89 hitters in just 75 innings while walking only 22 batters. He has lowered his walk rate from 11.6 percent last season to just 7.6 percent in 2019. Giolito has almost doubled his strikeout rate as well, jumping from 16.1 percent in 2018 to 30.8 percent this season.
In his last seven starts, the California native has been absolutely lights out. He has gone 7-0 with a 0.88 ERA, giving up just five earned runs in 51.1 innings pitched during that span while striking out 59 hitters in the process. In his last start on June 8, Giolito dominated the Kansas City Royals, sitting down 11 batters in 7.2 innings of scoreless baseball. His outstanding May led to him being named the AL Pitcher of the Month. He has only made two starts in June so far, but both of them were top-notch. At this rate, he could end up being named AL Pitcher of the Month once again.
Enjoying Success Relying on Two Pitches
Giolito has mostly relied on his four-seamer and changeup this year. He has thrown the heater 54.5 percent of the time and the changeup 24.1 percent of the time. He complements these two offerings with a slider and a curveball that he uses on occasion. His fastball velocity is up to an average of 94 mph this season from just 92 in 2018. He also threw a sinker often in 2018, but he has ditched that pitch and relied more on his changeup this year — which has been a fantastic decision.
It’s a pitch with great arm-side tail that has been one of his best weapons to put away hitters. Opposing lineups are hitting just .130 against the changeup while hitting just .100 off his hard slider — which is also a superior offering. Giolito’s command this year is obviously a lot better, but his fastball velocity is also up a few ticks. He has been able to locate the pitch better this year, whether he wants to paint the corners or get a guy to a chase a mid-90s heater up in the zone. Opponents are batting just .216 off his electric fastball that he can ramp up to the high 90s.
He looks like a completely different pitcher this year in all aspects. He is finally turning into the type of big-league starter that everyone hoped he would one day become. Lucas Giolito is definitely an early candidate for the AL Cy Young Award if he can continue to put forward dominant starts for the Chicago White Sox. In the meantime, he could very well make his first All-Star Game appearance in July.