#2: Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals
The legend of Gio has steadily grown over the past couple years among a fanbase that is no stranger to hyped-up pitching prospects. Yet the Nats’ first round draft pick in 2012 has proven that hype every step of the way after returning from Tommy John surgery in 2014. Last season, Gio set career highs in both innings (117) and strikeouts (131) while seeing time in both High-A and Double-A.
Giolito carries two elite-level pitches and a third very good one, which seems like an embarrassment of riches. You can start with his upper-90s fastball, which MLB.com graded as an 80 (the highest possible score) coming into 2016. Or you can start with the beautiful, massive curveball that has been described as “bowel-locking.” Or you can go with the changeup, which has steadily improved towards the end of last season. All three were on display in his first-ever spring training appearance on March 4, in which he worked two scoreless innings while striking out the side in the first one of those.
Giolito will likely put the finishing touches on his repertoire briefly in Double-A and then Triple-A while waiting for a spot to open up in the big-league rotation. Given the Nats’ recent luck with pitcher injury and poor performance, he may not be waiting long.