Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Lucas Giolito – First Look


WASHINGTON DC, JUNE 28: Washington starting pitcher Lucas Giolito (44) makes his major league debut as the Washington Nationals play the New York Mets at Nationals Park in Washington DC, June 28, 2016. (Photo by John McDonnell / The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON DC, JUNE 28: Washington starting pitcher Lucas Giolito (44) makes his major league debut as the Washington Nationals play the New York Mets at Nationals Park in Washington DC, June 28, 2016. (Photo by John McDonnell / The Washington Post)

Its been a while since I did one of these, but what better occasion than to eyeball our newest and biggest prospect on his MLB debut.

Lets talk about Lucas Giolito‘s abbreviated debut.  Here’s what I saw.

Smooth and easy delivery, almost effortless.  He seems like he’s just lobbing it in.  According to TV, FB at 94-96.  Here’s his Pitch F/X link on the night: they classified  his change-ups mostly as curves, had his average velocity at 93.9 and his peak at 95.9 (so the TV gun wasn’t embellishing).  In the first, He gave up a weak single to Granderson to lead-off, got the benefit of some high strikes against Cabrera before blowing him away with a “show me” 96 mph fastball down the pike.  Cespedes sat on a first pitch fastball and absolutely gashed it … right at Rendon.  Walker got a really nice change-up to start him off (nice to see that confidence to command his change-up 0-0), got him down 0-2 and kind of knew a a curve was coming and hit it pretty hard, but Murphy made a nice play to retire him and save the run.  Huge delta between his FB and change, and he controlled the change.  He only threw 2 curves in the first inning, one of which broke so sharply that the ump missed the call (it was borderline low anyway) and the second got hit.

Second inning even though he’s “only” 93 Loney was way behind.   You have to attribute that to his length and the fact that he’s releasing the ball probably a foot closer to the plate than a normal guy.  Loney then froze on a beautiful curve before flying out harmlessly.  The umpire’s high strike zone worked to Giolito’s advantage; his adreneline was definitely working against him and his pitches were trending up.   Flores got a good swing on his curve, better than I would have liked to have seen.   Weak fly ball opposite field for Nimmo and Giolito is through 2 having retired 6 straight.  Interesting.

We go into live blogging mode briefly: here’s some thoughts during the bottom of the 2nd:

  • At 8:30pm in my Vienna home it starts pouring; not a good sign for Giolito’s start.  I’m guessing they may have a brief delay.  Yup, like clockwork, 9pm the tarp goes out on the field.  Well at least I now know how long it takes for a storm to get from my house to Nats Park 🙂
  • Side tangent; why the F is Zimmerman hitting before Rendon??  In fact, why is Zimmerman hitting anything but like 8th right now?   Rendon gets Giolito a 1-0 lead with a crushed triple to right center.
  • Another tangent: boy seems like Harvey is short arming it.  I think I’ve mentioned this before in a comment somewhere; his mechanics just do not look like they did last year, or prior to his injury.  I wonder if this is just what he throws like now post TJ, or if he’s got some sort of mechanical issue.
  • Why exactly are they pitching to Espinosa with Giolito on deck?  That was kind of dumb.  The kid has 9 at bats in like the last 5 years.  I’m going to laugh if he gets a hit.
  • Giolito is a little rusty at the plate.  Of course, professional hitters can’t hit Harvey, so it isn’t like its any shameful thing that Giolito is swinging after the ball is in the catcher’s mitt.  He manages a grounder to second that for a second looked like it might weasel its way through.

Top of the 3rd, he makes quick work of 8-9 hitters on weak grounders; now its second time through the lineup.   He nibbled a little bit with Granderson and walked him on 4-straight; same with Cespedes.  Maybe that’s fair; those are the two most dangerous hitters in the Mets lineup these days.

He’s pitching efficiently, he’s working contact and getting a lot of weaker outs.  He’s not over throwing, hasn’t shown much above 96.  But he’s in control; just 32 pitches through three complete.

I’m trying to gauge the movement on his fastball; I saw one really nice tailing fastball that might have been a two seamer, but mostly its straight 4-seamers.

True to scouting reports, he has a sick curveball; a true 12-6 curve, straight over the top and it drops straight down.  Wow; that’s something you just don’t see that often.  It curves enough that a pitch that looks way up is going to drop into the zone.  Its no wonder why pundits rave about the hook.  By the 4th inning Ramos was loving the curve and calling it more frequently.

He’s getting great defense behind him; Rendon, Murphy and Espinosa all have turned in really nice plays for him on grounders that were sometimes pretty sharply hit.  But its all outs on the board.

Through 4 complete; 1 hit, two walks on just 45 pitches.  29 strikes, 16 balls (8 of which came on the two batters where he seemed to nibble/lose focus).

At this point, it started pouring, and when they didn’t remove the tarp after like 5 minutes you knew his night was done.  Team wins easily on the night 5-0 and I wonder how much longer Giolito could have gone.

In the end, we’ve seen him throw a couple of clicks faster (he was 97 in spring), and we’ve certainly seen him with more strikeout capacity (353 Ks in 324 career minor league innings with almost exactly 9 k/9 in AA this year against the best hitters in the minors).  I wonder if tonight’s outing was a managed gameplan kind of thing from the Nats brain trust; don’t over throw, pitch to contact, don’t worry about Ks or throwing max effort.

What did you guys see?




39 Responses to 'Lucas Giolito – First Look'

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  1. Glad you mentioned the possible 2 seamer. I didn’t get to watch but was curious if they’ve unleashed his full arsenal. I remember reading something early last year that the organization was not letting him throw any 2 seamers to protect his arm after surgery and to develop the 4 seamer. Did I miss the news when he may have started using the pitch again?


    29 Jun 16 at 9:58 am

  2. On the curve, the early ones seemed to stun the ump as well. They were passing over the plate in the strike zone but were well below it by the time they got to the mitt.

    As I noted earlier, I was most impressed with Giolito’s poise. After the expected over exuberance on some of the early pitches, he didn’t over-throw. He trusted his fielders, even while nearly getting a few of them killed early (according to FP, the park flashed a 112 mph hit speed on the Cespedes bullet to Rendon in the 1st).

    Pet peeve: it kills me that pitching prospects for NL teams don’t bat in the minors. Most of those guys were probably stud hitters in HS, but they lose it completely over four or five years of inaction. If nothing else, have them bat when playing another NL affiliate. I was frankly shocked that Giolito even managed to put the ball in play against Harvey.

    Anyway, the kid’s “got it.” He didn’t dominate, but neither was he out of his element. The $64K question now becomes: now what? Was this a one-off? Will Stras skip another start or two just to be sure? (Perhaps resting through the all-star break? Although I’m sure it would kill him not to pitch in his home town.) Will the Nats now actively look to move Gio to clear a rotation spot? Or suggest that Gio pull a muscle and spend a little time on the DL sorting out his mechanics?

    FWIW, Giolito now has ~65 innings, max, left for 2016, so perhaps 9 or 10 starts.


    29 Jun 16 at 10:23 am

  3. On the 2-seamer; it was clear as day to me on the tv; it wasn’t a change, it moved away from a left handed hitter, with really good arm side movement.

    Of course, pitch fx didn’t see it or classify it correctly.

    Todd Boss

    29 Jun 16 at 10:35 am

  4. Yeah, the Cespedes grounder was just murdered; he was sitting dead red on fastball and got it; luck y he didn’t elevate it.

    Todd Boss

    29 Jun 16 at 10:40 am

  5. KW on pitchers hitting: one of my main arguments for going universal DH. The National League of MLB is the sole league in the country, at any level pro or amateur, where the pitchers are forced to hit.

    Todd Boss

    29 Jun 16 at 10:49 am

  6. So, I was wondering what the corresponding move was going to be on the 40-man roster for the Giolito addition. I figured it was Jordan getting recalled and immediately 60-day D/L’d.

    Nope; according to his player page they released him today. Man, that seems cold. TJ surgery one week, out of a job and maybe out of a career the next.

    Todd Boss

    29 Jun 16 at 11:15 am

  7. Steve at Nats Talk has Rizzo saying that the Nats are working from a 137-inning base for Giolito for 2015, apparently counting spring and instructional innings. By my quick calculations, that expands him out to around 90 innings left at most, looking at an increase of no more than 20-25%.


    29 Jun 16 at 11:32 am

  8. Taylor Jordan’s release popped up on Luke’s site yesterday afternoon. I wondered whether he would already be a minor-league FA by the time he can pitch again. He turns 28 in Jan. and would be 29 by the time he’s full speed again (if he’s ever full speed again after TJ #2) in the spring of 2018. It’s cold, but it makes sense.

    I really, really wanted the Nats to trade Jordan a couple of years ago when he was still worth something. There are a lot worse guys pitching on the back ends of MLB rotations. I fear they’re making the same mistake now with Cole, holding onto him past the time he would have much value.


    29 Jun 16 at 11:38 am

  9. My two cents on last night: he threw easy, for sure. Didn’t dominate or even look particularly impressive, so maybe it was a little disappointing initially but after thinking about it, I suspect he could perform like a competent 4/5 right now, with the potential to command better and develop into the stud we’re expecting. That’s pretty good and I could see him following an arc like Gerrit Cole did.

    It would be nice to see another couple starts from him. I think he’ll be a quick learner.


    29 Jun 16 at 12:58 pm

  10. Air was heavy last night and being a little nervous probably took a tick or two off his fastball. Will be interesting to see if it picks up a bit on the gun in his next couple starts. Should be calmer and able to let it rip. As he’s advertised as more of a 97-98 mph type.

    I was impressed by the poise though. Especially after giving up a leadoff hit to his first ever batter, he held it together. Many rookies would have melted down right there.

    I remember Taylor Jordan’s first couple starts the defense played horrible behind him, so good to see the D was great last night for him.

    Marty C

    29 Jun 16 at 3:44 pm

  11. Marty! Come on, I was expecting something more negative from you about Giolito 😉

    Todd Boss

    29 Jun 16 at 4:11 pm

  12. The Nats were so impressed by Giolito’s debut that they went right out and signed Mat Latos. Umm . . . why? They’ve got a solid five MLB starters, plus Giolito, Voth, Cole, and Lopez, not to mention Arroyo rehabbing in the GCL. Plus Latos has a well-earned reputation as a nut job. I don’t get it.


    30 Jun 16 at 5:15 am

  13. Lotta times that just to give a vet that someone likes (Baker) a place to pitch while looking for an opening somewhere. I’d be surprised if he got an appearance with the Nats


    30 Jun 16 at 7:36 am

  14. Yeah, I’m really more “afraid” that Baker will try to get Arroyo into the rotation, though. Dusty was fawning all over him in the spring.

    At least the Nats have a rotation, and options. The Mets got only 7 of the 27 innings in the Nats series from their regular starters. One left after three innings because of a sore arm, and another skipped his start for the same reason. The chickens from ’15 are definitely coming home to roost. I feel bad for the players, but not for the organization.

    I know it’s WAY too early to write anybody off, and that the Mets brought in some guys at the trade deadline last year to supercharge things, but that’s a struggling outfit right now. Two-thirds of their Wed. lineup were AAAA types. But of course it’s great fun to rub a little Murphy salt in their wounds!

    I spent all last year saying I feared the Marlins more than the Mets. Maybe I was just a year ahead of the curve.


    30 Jun 16 at 8:02 am

  15. Latos signing: yeah don’t get that one. AAA rotation was (prior to 6/27/16 shell game of transactions); Cole, THill, Voth, Long, Espino. And frankly it was hard to pick one of these five to make way; Cole is on the 40-man and the “ace,” Hill, Voth and Espino have been quite good. Long hasn’t been bad but was 5th out of 5 of this crew. Then they promote Lopez, so I figure Long is going to get demoted to AA to take his place (we did after all sign him off of the Yankee’s AA roster). But now they sign Latos: so where the heck is he gonna play? Unless he’s going to the bullpen, there’s not a clear AAA rotation candidate to make way for him.

    Todd Boss

    30 Jun 16 at 9:01 am

  16. On the Mets struggle … it seems like their 2016 is looking just like the nats 2015. Nothing going right, injuries left and right, etc. Meanwhile, the Nats 2016 looks kind of like the Mets 2015 now doesn’t it? Very little injury issues, several guys over-achieving at the plate (Murphy) and on the mound (Strasburg, Roark).

    Todd Boss

    30 Jun 16 at 9:03 am

  17. On latos – Hill, Long and Espino won’t block anything they want to do. They really are just filler. Not likely that Latos is anything more, either.

    As for the Mets, I’d say that it is way too early to draw any conclusions other than we have a nice cushion right now. Long, long way to go.


    30 Jun 16 at 9:24 am

  18. Latos is the second coming of Scott Olsen, a guy with decent talent who is such a knucklehead that he running himself out of the league at a very young age.

    I just hope his signing doesn’t mean they are more worried about Strasburg than they are letting on. One thing to keep in mind is that all of the young starters will hit their innings limits well before the end of the season. I personally will not feel comfortable about SS until he pitches another game without incident.

    Karl Kolchak

    30 Jun 16 at 11:17 am

  19. Baker = manager in Cincinnati 2008-2013. Latos = Pitcher for Cincinnati 2012-2013.

    Might just be as easy as that; Baker asking his team to do a favor for his former pitcher.

    I actually like Espino and would be irritated if he got sent to the pen for Latos the head case resurrection case. Hill slightly less so. But if we assume Lopez and Latos are starting in AAA, then 2 of the current 5 have to go somewhere.

    Todd Boss

    30 Jun 16 at 3:17 pm

  20. Espino and Lopez are starting the doubleheader today. I think Hill may be the one more on the bubble.

    I saw one report that said that Latos’ contract includes multiple opt-out opportunities this season, so this may just be another of those favor/showcase situations. And who knows, if he looks good, maybe he gives the big club another swingman option. I really don’t see him getting a rotation spot, barring catastrophe. (See the Dodger DL for “catastrophe.” Latos would have been perfect there if he hadn’t already torched that bridge, royally.)


    30 Jun 16 at 5:48 pm

  21. Dunning Signed for $2m


    30 Jun 16 at 8:15 pm

  22. Great news that Dunning signed, albeit with virtually no savings. Someone on Luke’s site said that Williamson had signed as well. I think that just leaves Howard and one of the Gonzales kids from among the top 20.


    30 Jun 16 at 9:04 pm

  23. It’s looking like the kid at the top of this page may get another start on Sunday, as Dusty says he isn’t optimistic that Stras will be ready. There’s no rush. The mid-season DL “break” seemed to do Stras a world of good last year, and of course we need him primed to pitch well into October this season.

    He’s the question for the day: should we actually start to believe in Espinosa? History tells us that it’s a sucker bet. But goodness, you sure *want* to believe in a SS on 30-HR pace who plays plus defense. His overall batting stats aren’t super, although they’re better than his career averages in just about every category. Certainly above average for a guy whose skip insists on continuing to bat him 8th . . .


    1 Jul 16 at 8:18 am

  24. Now that all of our 1st 10 rounders have signed i’ll put up a post summarizing where we are and talk about who’se left. But yeah, not to bury the lede or anything but yeah, there’s not much $$ left.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 16 at 8:43 am

  25. Espinosa: don’t believe your eyes, lets look at the numbers. At not even the halfway point, bWAR of 1.1 an fWAR of 2.1 (fWAR uses a defensive metric that really likes what Espinosa is doing in the field).

    So, extrapolated out simply that’s a 2.2 bWAR or a 4.2 fWAR season. That would have made him the 3rd most valuable SS in the league last year (at least by Fangraphs war; B-R’s puts him a bit further down).

    Generally speaking, a SS that can play plus defense (check) and hit for 20 homers (at this point, check) is very valuable, even if he’s only hitting .230. And its why the team was right to resist knee jerk reactions earlier in the year and are now running Turner out in CF to get the best of both worlds.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 16 at 8:54 am

  26. Espinosa’s .787 OPS is 4th among the lineup regulars. Obviously, he cannot maintain his incredible June power pace, but that power does show that he is still a capable hitter. For the number 8 batter in the lineup whose glove is so important to the team that is indeed great news.

    Karl Kolchak

    1 Jul 16 at 9:06 am

  27. I’m very conflicted on what to believe about Danny. He’s fallen hard so many times, and generally, numbers return to norms. He’s very streaky. In fact, much of the Nat offensive success thus far has been built on guys producing well above their norms, particularly Danny, Murphy, and Ramos. I feel like Murphy’s success is based on consciously made, repeatable adjustments and can be sustained. I’ve seen Ramos and Espinosa struggle in their down periods too much over too many years not to be skeptical of their success, though.

    I guess the bottom line is that I hope it continues, but I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t.


    1 Jul 16 at 10:28 am


    I was wondering if Espinosa’s feat (homers from both sides of the plate) was a first for the franchise. Yup sure enough. I’m adding last night’s game to the “honor roll” of great Nats games.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 16 at 10:30 am

  29. There’s been a big thread at Nats Talk on possibly trading Turner now that Espinosa is showing life. One suggestion was Turner for Melancon, whose contract is up this year. That’s nuts. I see Turner as one of the core cogs of the Nats for the next six-plus years. I see Danny as a guy on a career-best hot streak at age 29. If anything, sell high on Danny.

    In the bigger picture, the Nats have very, very few guys in the minor-league pipeline at everyday positions who look like they can start for a contender. Sure, there’s a good list of guys we can dream on, particularly in the lower minors, but the only one who has proven that he’s anywhere close to being ready to step into an everyday lineup is Turner. I’m not saying he’s untouchable, just that you better be getting a young, controllable star in return if you move him. And you better believe that Danny’s magic will continue.


    1 Jul 16 at 3:58 pm

  30. Turner for Melncon? Good grief, that one is barely worth commenting on. Nuts doesn’t even describe it. No chance.

    If you really wanted to offer up Turner, he might be the center piece for a Sonny Gray trade. But I don’t want to offer him up. I think he should be untouchable. Not actually untouchable, just practically – meaning that what you would want back wouldn’t be something many people would meet.

    I don’t really see a trade for a positional guy, unless they can find a stud CF.


    1 Jul 16 at 7:42 pm

  31. Turner for Melancon would be GM malpractice.

    If the nats really wanted to bolster their bullpen in the immediate, then call up Reynaldo Lopez and put him in the 8th inning for the rest of the season and tell him to throw it as hard as he can for 15 pitches every other night.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jul 16 at 7:54 pm

  32. Yeah, it feels like Lopez and Glover are part of that plan. Lopez as much for innings cap reasons as anything else.

    Boy, Solis looks good these days. Phenomenal outing tonight. 2 IPs, 15 pitches, 13 strikes


    1 Jul 16 at 9:43 pm

  33. Solis living up to his draft billing for sure.

    Todd Boss

    2 Jul 16 at 7:39 am

  34. How come Solis doesn’t get more buzz as a potential closer? He showed a few nerves after he was called up, but he’s well over that and looks dominant.

    I do hope they scale back Lopez’s innings at AAA so he has a few left for bullpen work at the end of the year. By my count, after yesterday, he’s only got roughly ~45 innings left.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Glover is the closer for the big club in 2017. He may not be their first option, and they may kick the tires on Chapman, Jansen, and Melancon, but he’s an option.

    I once had a thing myself for the Nats trying to get Sonny Gray. But the Nats now aren’t really that desperate for another front-line starter, certainly not to the point of giving up the package that a guy like Gray would cost. Turner fills more of a need for the Nats than Gray would right now.


    2 Jul 16 at 8:09 am

  35. I should also add a mea cupla for thinking the Mets were done. Then they go and take the first two from the Cubbies. The Nats are now only 3.5 behind the “mighty” Cubs, despite the Nats’ recent seven-game losing streak. The Giants are just 1.5 behind the Cubs.


    2 Jul 16 at 8:16 am

  36. Glover is another great idea. Its why i’m almost never a fan of trading for relievers; you always have more down on the farm. If we have an injury or regression, either of those two guys could be the answer.

    Todd Boss

    2 Jul 16 at 8:21 am

  37. In a pennant race, I see value in a reliever who has proven themselves in major league, high leverage situations. I still think it’s hindered Treinen to get thrust into high leverage spots almost immediately.

    Luis Garcia and Yasel Antuna signed with the Nats as J2 guys. Antuna got $4m, which is just staggering to me. There was some talk of the Nats trying to steal Maitan away from the Braves, but it didn’t work.


    2 Jul 16 at 9:33 am

  38. There was only one 16-year-old worth $4M, and he was from Vegas, not the DR . . . It’s just insane to pay that much for kids, no matter how they “project.” Those are HS sophomores. I hope the new CBA folds the international front into Rule 4.

    All of that said, the Nats started Juan Soto in the GCL at age 17, skipping the Dominican league, and he’s currently 8-for-15 over his first five games.


    2 Jul 16 at 10:09 am

  39. I’m split between two thoughts on DR prospects and an international draft:
    1. yes, agree its ridiculous to spend this money trying to project a 16-yr old. And its ridiculous that the DR especially has become essentially a child labor factory for the billionaire owners in the MLB.
    2. while there’s certainly arguments against it, the inclusion of Puerto Rico into the draft seems to be awfully coincidental with the massive dropoff of PR-playing players.

    I think including intl players into the overall draft completely removes all incentives that have driven DR baseball development.

    Todd Boss

    2 Jul 16 at 12:40 pm

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