Nats prospects test mettle in Futures Game
Giolito, Taylor thrilled to compete in All-Star week festivities
MINNEAPOLIS -- Lucas Giolito was one of those special prospects it seemed most every scout and coach wanted to see during Sunday afternoon's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. This is partly because the baseball world has gotten to see so little of the special talents possessed by Giolito, who had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery shortly after the Nationals took him with the 16th overall selection in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
To some, Giolito might still be "that guy the Nationals took a chance on, despite knowing he was dealing with a tender elbow." To those who have seen or kept close tabs on the 19-year-old right-hander, he is the guy who has the potential to be one of baseball's top pitchers within the next couple of years.
But when given a chance to compete against the game's other best prospects on Sunday, Giolito was reminded that he was far from the only special talent who had been invited to Target Field for this event. With the fifth pitch of his appearance, Giolito hung a 79-mph first-pitch curveball that Javier Baez drilled the other way for a two-run homer that accounted for all of the World team's offense in a 3-2 loss to the United States team.
Baez, who has been described as (Gary) Sheffield Lite because of his violent swing, has played 299 games during his professional career. Just two years removed from being a first-round selection out of high school, Giolito has made just 26 starts, including 14 this year, at the pro level.
"I felt fine physically," Giolito said. "I just wasn't used to the whole pitching out of the 'pen and that whole deal. My stuff was fine. I guess Baez was sitting curveball first pitch and I didn't get it down enough, and he destroyed it oppo. I don't see that very often."
Like Giolito, fellow Nationals prospect Michael Taylor savored the chance to play against the game's best on Sunday. Filling the leadoff spot for the US, Taylor counted a third-inning single as his only hit in four at-bats.
"That was exciting," Taylor said of hitting leadoff. "It just takes some of the nerves out. You don't have to worry about when you're going to get in or anything like that. So I'm excited about that."
Both Taylor, rated the Nationals' No. 4 prospect by MLB.com, and Giolito, the club's top prospect, were thrilled to have their parents in attendance.
While Taylor's mother, Lula, has allowed her passion for reading to help her better understand the baseball world, Giolito's father, Rick, became a prospect geek once his son entered the professional baseball world.
"My dad is so huge on following prospects," Giolito said. "You'd think he could be a writer for like Baseball Prospectus or Keith Law ESPN. He's following that stuff since I broke into it. He was thrilled to be able to meet some of these guys because he follows their careers and sees what they do.
"He knows more about Minor League baseball than Major League baseball. Mom is the one who sits and watches Nationals games every day."
Long before her Giolito became a top-flight baseball prospect, Lindsay Frost, his mother, was a Hollywood actress who has appeared in numerous television shows and movies. Rick, meanwhile, made a nice living helping create a number of video games, including those in the Medal of Honor franchise for Electronic Arts.
Rick's father competed in fencing at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics. And Lindsay's brother Mark, who was also in attendance on Sunday, was a co-creator of ABC's former series Twin Peaks.
With all of these successful individuals surrounding him, it is easy to understand why Giolito seems unfazed by the challenge of making it to the Major League level. But he certainly is not rushing things, especially this year, as he stays within the restrictions set on pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery.
"There's no rush about getting up to the big leagues as fast as I can," Giolito said. "I'm just interested in improving my pitching game. I'll let them put me where they want this year."
Blessed with an above-average fastball and knee-buckling curveball, Giolito has gone 4-2 with a 2.47 ERA in 14 starts for Class A Hagerstown this season. In his past eight starts, he has produced a 2.06 ERA and 3.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 39 1/3 innings.
"I know I have things I need to work on," Giolito said. "So, I'm never satisfied. It's good that I throw hard and my curveball breaks a lot, but there is more to it than that. I definitely want to improve on the finer aspects of pitching."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.