Nationals Arm Race

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

Great video of Lucas Giolito from GCL

18 comments

Giolito's comeback from TJ surgery has been great.  Photo Eric Dearborn via win-for-teddy blog

Giolito’s comeback from TJ surgery has been great. Photo Eric Dearborn via win-for-teddy blog

Courtesy of MinorLeagueBall.com’s John Sickels (who I’ve asked if he’s doing a player-by-player recap of this year’s draftees like he did last year, which I borrowed from for a good blog post last off-season, but have not heard back), here’s a posting with links to the blog BaseballInstinct, which has some good video of Lucas Giolito throwing during his time in the GCL earlier this month.

The videos are set to rather loud music, so hit mute if you’re at work or are annoyed by electronic/techno music.

The videos show POV from behind the catcher and then some from the side, have some MPH readings, have some slo-mo of Giolito’s mechanics for various pitches and at release points.

Observations/thoughts:

– He looks like a bigger kid than the photo above shows.  He has a good pitcher build, big legs, big strong body.  He’s listed as 6’6″ 230 so I’m not sure why I thought he was a little wiry kid.

– His motion looks like a cross between Cole Kimball with perhaps a little Roy Oswalt.  When he lands, his shoulder tilt and arm position are almost identical to Kimball’s, while his arm flail in regular speed seems like a throwback to Oswalt.

– 92-93 reportedly on the gun in these videos; it was from earlier this month, early in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.  But, this is a far cry from the reported upper 90s/100 he showed in high school (speeds per PerfectGame scouting reports).  I’m hoping this was just from a very early game in his rehab and he was holding back.

– Is it just me, or is his curve ball incredibly telegraphed?  His arm position seems way, way higher for his curve than it did for his fastball.  That and his hand position seems to be very simple to pick up.  We talked earlier this season about tipping pitches and I’m guessing this is something they’ll work on with Giolito.  If an amateur like me can see a difference that distinct, then a professional certainly can too.

– Likewise, later in the video his trailing leg finish is incredibly inconsistent.  Sometimes it comes across his body, sometimes he kicks the ground, sometimes it just trails behind.  It seems like he may need some mechanical fine tuning.  Does this make a difference in the pitch?  It’s too late to be a pitch tipping mechanism and could be because he was throwing from the stretch/trying to slide step a bit.

– He gets an incredibly long push-off the rubber (see the side-action video later in the link).  By the time he releases the ball, his foot is at least 12-15 inches in front of the rubber and his arm/release point has to be at least 7+ feet in front of the rubber.  Study the video; he’s 6’6″ and he’s clearly further off the rubber than he is tall.  We talk about how really tall pitchers (think Jon RauchChris Young and Randy Johnson) get an advantage because they’re releasing the ball closer to home, so the pitch looks faster than it is.  Giolito’s mechanics combined with his height give this same appearance.  If you combine this long push-off and the reported velocity he can achieve … wow, that’s a heck of a combination.  There’s no wonder that he was in the mix for 1-1 last year.

Any other thoughts?  I know there are readers out there who discount this kid as a prospect.  But I’ll say this; 10 shutout innings so far after being promoted to Short-A, which is basically a college league.  He’s only 19 and is recovering from injury.   If he starts next season in low-A before his 20th birthday and gets promoted up at some point, he’ll be well on his way to being one of the top prospects in baseball.

Written by Todd Boss

August 30th, 2013 at 10:58 am

18 Responses to 'Great video of Lucas Giolito from GCL'

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  1. 95-98 in his last start at Auburn. He hasn’t lost a thing. What has happened is his Change-Up is now at least a 60 Grade pitch to go along with his 70 FB and 65 CB. Who discounted this guy as a prospect? A Met fan who’s team picked Gavin Cecchini in front of the Nationals picking Giolito?. LOL. Twitter had a scout who was at the game saying “This guy could be pitching AA right now”. I doubt that but it speaks to his ability. He just turned 19yo. Way advanced for his age and you are correct, he’s bigger : 6’6″ or more and at least 240 lbs. now. That’s a lot of pitcher coming at you. If he stays healthy, the Nats will be well rewarded for their very risky pick. Go Cubbies!

    Mike Williams

    30 Aug 13 at 12:24 pm

  2. There was a prospect-driven discussion here lately where some expressed the opinion that Giolito shouldn’t be as highly regarded because of how low he is and his injury. That goes counter to a) the industry opinion, which every expert out there has him at worst #3 prospect in our system, and b) to my own opinion, which now grows given what he’s doing now post-surgery rehab.

    Thanks for the updated radar readings and I completely agree; he’s a heck of a prospect. Big guy, big velocity and a 60 change/65 curve as his secondary pitches? Wow. We throw around these 20-80 grades sometimes with out remembering the context. 80s is “best ever, hall of fame quality” grade, 70s are “mlb all-star level” and 60s are “above average MLBer” for categories if I remember correctly. I’d love to see Giolito start in Hagerstown and earn a quick promotion to high-A, with an eye on 2015 at AA pushing for a Sept call up at age 21.

    A better question on Giolito is this: given what he’s shown this summer, where does he fall in the Minors top 100 lists to come? He was already in the 70s on MLB lists, top 50 on Keith Law’s list before throwing a pitch post surgery. I’m betting top 25 at least with future top 10s coming. Feels great to have such a great prospect coming back and coming in the future.

    Todd Boss

    30 Aug 13 at 12:32 pm

  3. From Keith Law’s Chat yesterday:

    Matt (DC)

    What have you read or heard about Giolito in the GCL so far?
    Klaw (1:26 PM)

    Good as new.

    Todd Boss

    30 Aug 13 at 12:52 pm

  4. I read those lists but frankly I don’t know what to make of them except as discussion points. You guys have Brian Goodwin as your #1 who’s posted a decent .765 OPS in AA but is 24yo. Giolito has such a short sample that it’s all based on potential but he just a month past his 19th birthday. That’s a big factor when thinking about where he belongs on any lists. Time is on his side. Coming back from TJ is a crap shoot for most but everything i have read about this guy concerning work ethic and maturity must be true to be 12 months from surgery and performing like he is. Wish we had him.

    Mike Williams

    30 Aug 13 at 12:55 pm

  5. I try to keep tabs on all the major Prospect outlets and who they think are the best. I use these main sources: mlb.com/Jonathan Mayo, espn’s Keith Law, Fangraph’s Marc Hulet, Baseball Prospectus’s Jason Parks, Scouting Book, minorleagueball’s John Sickels and Baseball America (led by Jim Callis). Here’s what I have as latest top 5s for each source:
    – mlb mid-2013: Goodwin, Giolito, Cole, (a gap), Taylor, Karns
    – BP pre-season: Rendon, Giolito, Goodwin, Cole, Karns
    – Scouting Book pre-season: Rendon, Cole, Giolito, Goodwin, (a gap), Purke
    – Sickels pre-season: Rendon, Goodwin, Cole, Giolito, Skole
    – Fangraphs pre-season: Goodwin, Rendon, Giolito, Cole, ?
    – BA pre-season: Rendon, Giolito, Goodwin, Cole, Karns
    – KLaw pre-season: Rendon, Goodwin, Giolito, Cole, Karns

    I think right now my top 10 goes like this: Giolito, Karns, Cole, Goodwin, Skole, Ray, Solis, Purke, Johansen, Garcia. Doesn’t look at 3 guys who graduated in Rendon, Jordan or Krol.

    Pretty consistent throughout. Every pre-season ranking missed on Taylor Jordan entirely.

    Improving stock in 2013: Ray, Cole, Giolito, Kobernus, Karns (sort of), Hill, Barrett, Holland, Walters
    Stock Falling in 2013: Goodwin, Garcia, Perez, Taylor, Skole (injured), Hood, Marrero, Rivero, Hague, Rosenbaum/Komatsu
    Too early to tell/need more PT post injury: Solis, Purke, Johansen, Ward

    Todd Boss

    30 Aug 13 at 1:27 pm

  6. Wow…comprehensive list. I go to http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/mlb/news/prospects/index.jsp?c_id=was which is I guess a compilation? Not sure.

    Mike Williams

    30 Aug 13 at 2:18 pm

  7. The MLB.com link you posted is the one that populated the “mlb mid-2013″ top 5 in my last comment… it is done by mlb.com with significant input from their prospect expert Jonathan Mayo. By way of comparison, Mayo’s top 5 nats pre-season were Rendon, Goodwin, Giolito, Cole, Taylor, so all he did mid-season was chop off the graduated Rendon and tack on his #6 Karns.

    Generally speaking i put the most faith in Mayo, Law, Sickels and BA’s rankings and opinions. Law focuses a bit too much on potential versus realization of talent, which lends me to believe he’s going to very highly rank Giolito in his next lists.

    Todd Boss

    30 Aug 13 at 3:37 pm

  8. I’ll pitch in on this, since I am non industry and absolutely think that tools do not measure mental intangibles, whether players can carry their success up a notch, the effect that other players have around them, and the bottom line, which is do they get it done.

    With that said, and I am happy to be called a lunatic, thin that Steven Souza is the best position prospect in the Nats system. He has, over the past two years, produced both offensively and defensively. He has power that the team lacks.

    I also would rank AJ Cole as the #1 pitching prospect in the system. Again, he produced at A+ and then has continued to produce at AA, even better in fact, and is only 21.

    We had the same discussion about Tanner Roark and then, Billy Burns.Everyone wanted Karns, Roark earned the call, got it, and produced.

    Burns has made the entire Harrisburg team better. His intangibles are better than his tools. And so who needs Jonathan Mayo to rank him so high?

    Count me in as pencilling in Taylor Jordan into the rotation. What he accomplished this year (And this was supposed to be Karns year) was amazing.

    So count me among those who want to see Giolito have a much larger sample size than two SS starts. And he is still a post-injury pitcher. But he’s obviously got a lot going for him.

    My top-20 I submit. So you can laugh at it, it can broaden the discussion beynd the sexy names and so we can consider it after the winter and before next year. Of course, all the players have to work at their craft and refine it over the winter and some make that jump, physically, mentally, or skill. But as of now (with Roark, Jordan, and Krol (arguably) graduated:

    A.J. Cole – Age, performance
    Steven Souza – performance, power, speed, arm, all over the OF
    Aaron Barrett – performance and out pitches
    Zach Walters – age and huge power and multiple positions. They can teach him all winter to fix his defense. He has a future here.
    Billy Burns – game changer. Hi OBP. Most exciting minor leaguer in Nats system this year other than Jordan. Knows how to steal third. I would actually call him up in September just to have him pinch run. It would not happen in order to keep him off the 40 man, which needs adjusting.
    Robbie Ray – age and rising velocity.
    Christian Garcia – last year gave us all tingles. But he’s injured. It may never happen, but I’d rather see him in the rotation
    Brian Goodwin – has not yet dominated AA but has great defense, power, speed
    Caleb Clay – Just keeps pitching well every time out
    Jeff Kobernus – versatile, hits, and speed
    Nathan Karns – continued his progress at AA, still not dominating enough, but ready for AAA
    Eury Perez – young, speed, average,more power
    Blake Schwartz – keeps winning and transitioned successfully up a level.
    Drew Ward – Success at his age
    Luke Giolito – See Drew Ward, just 1-2 years older
    Taylor Hill – every level he rises, he pitches wel. first losing record this year, got no run support
    Gilberto Mendez – very young and lights out
    Austin Voth – advanced enough to be recommended to Potomac by his manager. Great control
    Adrian Nieto – Big bat now and will get chance with catching prospects in organization thinned
    Richie Mirowski – all he does is win every level he advances, inspired big confidence pitching coach Meinart

    forensicane

    31 Aug 13 at 10:40 pm

  9. I would add that in terms of stock rising, there are those in my top 20 that are self-evident.

    But of those I did not list, the stock rising would include, for me:

    1) Isaac Ballou, OF A- (2013 draft pick)
    2) Justin Thomas, LHP A- (2013 draft pick)
    3) Tyler Herron, RHP AA
    4) Bryan Lippincott, 1B SS (2012 draft pick)
    5) Narciso Mesa, OF A-
    6) Josh Johnson, Inf AAA*

    *note – he was on the rise before a PED suspension, but he is a good player who added power to his game. Can’t overlook that he is producing at AAA and simply hasn’t yet failed.

    Falling:

    That is a relative discussion. I happen to think that with a good off season and spring, Michael Taylor will start AA next year. He’s had improved power, is highly regarded defensively, and is going to have over 50 SB this year. He’s young enough.

    I do cling to Christian Garcia, in part because 1) I read his latest injury was a hamstring, I think 2) He has a history of coming back, so he has the heart 3) He has few miles on his arm.

    forensicane

    31 Aug 13 at 11:42 pm

  10. I think that Michael Taylor had an overall good year, and he actually improved his stock over last year, when he struggled.

    I also like Billy Burns as a part time player, but I think we have to give Taylor the first chance as a defensive replacement/pinch runner because he’s rule 5 eligible this winter.

    Speaking of rule 5 eligible players, Zach Walters is having a monster year, and I can’t wait to see home this September. I think his interview on Fangraphs was very telling because he was focused on improving his power this season. He’s hit for a high average at every stop along the way except this season, so if he can find a common ground between hitting for power and hitting for average, he’s going to be a solid utility infielder. He’s also constantly working on his defense and seems like a generally great guy. He would definitely add to the clubhouse chemistry.

    I would rate my top prospects as
    1. Lucas Giolito (Wow.)
    2. AJ Cole (I was really impressed by his futures game performance)
    3. Brian Goodwin (I feel like he’s close to figuring things out.)
    4. Nate Karns (Followed up his breakout year with another solid season.)
    5. Robbie Ray (Command and pitch counts)
    6. Michael Taylor (Great athlete)
    7. Eury Perez
    8. Matt Skole
    9. Matt Purke (I like him.)
    10. Sam Solis (He’s even older than Karns)
    11. Zach Walters
    12. Aaron Barrett
    13. Pedro Severino (I just love him. He’s my favorite.)
    14. Jeff Kobernus (He’s fast)
    15. Billy Burns (He’s like a Eury Perez who actually draws walks)

    Melissa

    1 Sep 13 at 1:27 am

  11. Melissa,

    Burns is a quantum leap faster than anyone in the organization. Think Billy Hamilton.

    Michael Taylor is a preference to be added, as is Souza, but no way would Taylor be brought up from A+. He’d be added to the 40 Man after the season, when lots of space can be made (Cedeno, Chad Tracy, Solano, Sandy Leon, Tyler Robertson, Erik Davis, and more).

    Of your list, there are a few people who may be much higher (to me) after next spring:

    1) Purke – he is still very close to serious shoulder surgery. With more time to progress, and to learn to pitch, he could have that much arm and brain by next spring.

    2) Skole – Will he still have it? We’ll all root for him this fall. But he may start slow or never get to start at all

    3) Goodwin – He certainly came out of the AFL last year as the fair haired boy of the farm system. He’ll get his chance to move up to AAA next year, as will the entire Harrisburg OF.

    4) Ray – for a few weeks I had him as my top prospect in the system. But he’s faded a bit. So he’s very young, apparently very coachable, and can learn from concerted coaching in instructional league to get over the command stuff.

    Solis is a guy I worry about teetering on the edge of oblivion. He went out injured again this year, is not striking guys out in his more recent starts, and has been hit a bit in A+.

    Watch who gets pegged as a GCL all star. That may herald the next underage Dominican who makes a jump to A+ next spring as the next Severino/Mesa/Pineyro class. Randy Encarnacion and Rafael Bautista are producers, and there are a number of pitching names you have seen.

    At this time next year, we could be looking at a much more Dominican top-20. A record season w-l doesn’t happen by rehab assignments alone.

    forensicane

    1 Sep 13 at 3:14 am

  12. forensicane,

    I don’t think Taylor will be called up yet, but I do think he will be added to the 40-man this winter, and so will get the call before some other outfielders. I think a lot of people are underestimating Taylor, who could fill the 5th outfielder role that Bernadina occupied (albeit as a right handed hitter). Taylor is by far the top defensive outfielder in the system (and one of the best in the entire minor leagues) even compared to Brian Goodwin. He also has significant speed and has a good, athletic build. If he starts 2014 in double-A, I think he can be a factor for a 2015 bench role.

    Brian Goodwin- I really like him, and I believe in him a lot. After watching him play, I think he’s working in things and he’ll figure them out soon. He’s maintained a high OBP all year despite a shaky year offensively, which is something we need in the Nationals’ lineup.

    Robbie Ray- I really like him too, and if he can become more pitch effective, I think he can be a back end starter. If he doesn’t, he could be a solid lefty reliever.

    Solis and Karns are two guys that are right on the edge of being “too old” but as long as they can be in the majors by next season, they should be fine. I’m more optimistic about Karns than Solis though because Solis has missed so much time and is only at high-A at an older age than when Karns was there. If Solis has a strong AFL, he’ll be protected from the rule-5 draft. Otherwise, I see him being left unprotected. Neither of them is Christian Garcia, so I do think they’ll be fine, though they may have missed the window to be anything more than relievers.

    I think that Giolito is the clear #1 in the system, but I think Goodwin and Cole are too close to really distinguish a clear #2. I gave Cole the edge because I think he’s closer to being an impactful major leaguer. He’s come on strong the past few weeks with the adjustments he’s made, and I really hope he’s earned an invite to major league camp. I think he’s a contender for the open rotation spot as early as this spring.

    Melissa

    1 Sep 13 at 2:46 pm

  13. Todd Boss

    2 Sep 13 at 8:16 am

  14. Taylor: he may have improved his numbers … but I don’t see any reason to add him to the 40-man/protect him from rule5 draft. I can’t see any way he’d stick on a 25man roster all spring having never played above A-ball. Now, give him another season rising to AA and continuing to improve, then yes maybe.

    but that being said … what does Taylor bring that we don’t already have in Perez or the underperforming Span? Do we need a light hitting low obp #8 hitting center fielder?

    Todd Boss

    2 Sep 13 at 8:58 am

  15. I just don’t see the Nats leaving their best defensive outfielder unprotected in the rule 5 draft. There is probably some team willing to take a flyer on an amazing defensive outfielder like Taylor who can also pinch run. Michael Taylor has 21 outfield assists this season–19 from centerfield. That’s an insane number (and one he’s reached two seasons in a row). He is by far the best defensive outfielder in the system. He has the range of Span and plus arm strength too. What team wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to snag a 23 year old centerfielder with amazing range and a cannon for an arm? There are teams out there that are willing to put a guy like Taylor out on the field on a consistent basis. Taylor’s defense is major league quality right now, but the Nats aren’t rushing his bat, which will hopefully catch up soon.

    Taylor can also hit lefties well, so it wouldn’t be out of the question to platoon him and Brian Goodwin in center if Goodwin can’t figure out how to hit lefties.

    If we protect Taylor this season, he could be competing for a fourth/fifth outfielder role as soon as 2015, so it wouldn’t exactly be a wasted spot on the 40-man. I would be more worried about protecting Solis. Barrett, Walters, and Taylor are sure to be protected.

    Melissa

    2 Sep 13 at 1:21 pm

  16. Wow. I had no idea. 21 assists, 19 from CF? That IS insane. No wonder Luke Erickson was so high on him.

    That’s all the more impressive since this is his second year in the league, so think of all of the people who did not run on him because of his reputation. And he still got 21 assists.

    I’m with Melissa on this one. You don’t risk letting him get away to someone who uses him as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. We (sort of) lost Erik Komatsu a couple of years back, and this guy has more going for him.

    But what do I know?

    I still think that if the Nats are in the hunt (post playoffs), Billy Burns will get called up to the 40 man, because his pinch running can win more games than late inning pinch hitting.

    I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Souza, just to give him a taste and again, get a power guy an AB in a 15 inning game.

    forensicane

    2 Sep 13 at 1:43 pm

  17. I think you guys are really over-thinking this whole roster thing. How many teams in this day and age save one of their 25 man roster spots for a pinch runner/5th outfielder? It just doesn’t happen. Yes, teams will do such things for a short series in the post-season … but that’s mostly because you don’t need a 5th starter or a long-man generally in a 5-game playoff series so you can have specialists like that. But not for the long haul. The season is just too long to waste an entire roster spot on a guy who can’t regularly contribute.

    Billy Burns being added to the 40-man? This year?? I know he’s got speed and I like his numbers too. But that’s just silly talk. He stays in the minors, off the 40-man until he’s either called up or makes a case to be added. He’s even further behind in the CF depth chart AND his lack of size/power is going to make him an incredible long shot to contribute.

    Komatsu EXACTLY demonstrates my point. He was far more advanced than either of these guys, he got picked and didn’t stick. I used to advocate protecting tons of guys in rule-5; now I realize the long-shot odds of these players actually sticking in the majors and realize that there’s no need to protect them. Look who the Nats protected last year: Karns and Davis. Not because they were the best talents, but because they were the most likely to stick on a MLB bullpen.

    Todd Boss

    3 Sep 13 at 7:21 am

  18. Whether Komatsu had a higher ceiling or not than Taylor is debatable. Taylor led a punchless organization in RBI while stealing over 50 bases. He’s not exactly Herb Washington, he’s a guy the organization is being patient with.

    The difference between last year and this year is that when Rosenbaum and Kobernus were picked, we knew the organization would not miss them. The system was noticeably thinner than it is this year, so whoever was exposed that didn’t get picked? Josh Smoker? Is he even still playing?

    My point is, this year, it’s much different. There has been a maturation of enough folks that the team has tougher decisions to make on the 40 Man. Tanner Roark had 17 losses last year. And was exposed.

    And so yes, if faced with Tyler Robertson of Michael Taylor, whom do you keep and whom do you add? Do you really keep Jonathan Solano on the 40 Man?

    As for Billy Burns, perhaps I have irrational exuberance over him and Souza. Let’s revisit this discussion after the playoffs in AA.

    As noted by my beloved ‘Cane, and the former Redskin Santana Moss, “Big time players step up big in big time games.” OK, let’s see who steps up on the stage and what that says about maturity, and who is a winner.

    Why is another reason I am high on Burns? Because his teams win. Look up the winning percentage of the teams he has been starting for. When a guy at the top of the lineup has that kind of W-L, you start to wonder whether he is more than a player but a legitimate catalyst. I am sure that the Nats know this, if I can see it from afar.

    forensicane

    3 Sep 13 at 12:05 pm

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