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Scouting Update: Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake (2012 Draft)

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February 27, 2012

First start of the high school year, show me something – 97 and 98 in the first inning is what I got – and that’ll do just fine.

I went scouting director style for this one, three innings in and out. Giolito was comfortable 96, easy motion, smooth delivery, good on-line, good landings. He throws a heavy fastball, frequently 95-96 in this look, frequent hard sink and tail against right-handers. Everything with this guy is around the plate, which is a rarity among young power arms.

My instincts are that he needs to throw his fastball inside against right-handers more frequently and throw his curveball more and his change-up less, but we may not see this until he becomes a pro. The curveball is going to be his premier major league secondary weapon, not his change-up. In the first inning, he snapped off an 86-mile an hour, sharp and tight two-plane breaking ball. That’s a weapon he seldom uses here for various reasons. The moment he walks onto a pro field, I guarantee you somebody much older than me is going to tell him, don’t worry about the change-up, son, let’s get you some consistency and confidence with that breaking ball.

Ask me the best three right-handed curveballs I’ve seen since I started the site: 2010 was Covey. 2011 was Bauer. 2012 should be Giolito, if he ever throws it more than once an inning. Maybe I could get Ron Miller up here and you two could go at it, man against man, no fielders. That would be scouting.

He also showed a hard slurve, 83, which is either a curve he’s not finishing or an underdeveloped slider. In either case, that’s a serviceable weapon down the road, but it’s not developed here. He flashes enough power to allow you to dream on the pitch.

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The change-up he loves to throw was 82 here, usually 82-83, and it’s a straight change that often misses up where stronger hitters are going to maul it. I’ve seen this guy plenty and this is a pitch that would be getting hit somewhere other than the CIF-Southern Section. It absolutely profiles as a pro weapon and he’s got more confidence in it as an amateur. Throw it all you want, but as soon as somebody signs him on the dotted line, he’s going to become a fastball-curveball guy.

The change will come next, followed by the slider development, provided the slider doesn’t take away from the curveball or the change-up. Now we get into the realm of pro development, where he will be taught to differentiate the spin of the slider from his curveball. Otherwise the soft sliders will be hit as hard as hanging changes. He needs to be trained to make the curveball look different from the slider and the change-up look different than both of them. Welcome to pro ball, my friend. These are all very finer points that get beyond scouting and into professional player development. This boy needs an older companion; a Jim Turner type. Yeah, you gotta know baseball history to make that comp work, but I’m a little sneaky that way.

Other aspects of this boy’s game I suspect the pro side will seek to clean up include his defense. As of now, he is slow off the mound, slow to get rid of ball on force at second, arm strength is the equalizer but they’re going to run better and he’s going to have to learn how to rush and still be accurate. You get that 7 runner Dominican on first base in Double-A and that bang-bang play at second ain’t going your way unless you get the pill out of your pud faster. (1940s to 2010s translation: transfer ball from glove needs to become quicker.) The pro instructors will fix that right quick. Rogers Hornsby would have lit a firecracker in front of the mound and said “Move your feet and make the play before you get a spark up your a**!” Hornsby was a charming guy.

Pitched to contact at 94 in the third inning. That’s not a velocity drop, that’s just get outs and get out of here. You have to respect Giolito for his constant desire for pitch efficiency, but there will come a time when he faces better hitters. He will need to to put a 98-100 middle-in, chest-high fastball to a big strong right-handed hitter who, if he misses even a notch lower, will fight him off, break his bat and jam shot him into a right field with a muscle single that beats him. I’m dreaming on him against the caliber of play that we expect to see him face. They don’t call me “The Prophet” for nothing.

I love Giolito’s arm and potential, but if I were an old pro side guy, a Bill Plummer type, a former catcher who was playing for money when others were still in high school, I’d say this – there is a difference between throwing strikes and attacking hitters. It’s hard to nitpick on a guy sitting in the mid-90s, but from my perspective, we’re not judging him on what he is now, we’re judging him on what he wants to be. I’d like to see him attack hitters and climb the ladder more. He loves to pitch, but I’d like to see him come inside on some right-handers and not just hit the glove on the outer half. I’d like to see him climb the ladder and smoke a guy with two strikes. Funny thing is, if this guy stepped off the airplane and went to pro baseball tomorrow, I’ll bet you my reputation that a pro instructor will tell him the same thing I just did.

I am often reminded of an old Twilight Zone episode called “The Mighty Casey,” written by the late, great, chain-smoking and incredibly bad ass Rod Serling. In the Mighty Casey, a scientist creates a hard-throwing right-handed robot with the best fastball anyone can remember. But there is one problem. In a game, Casey has too big of a heart to smoke those poor mortals because he knows, well, this really ain’t fair. And I think Giolito knows that this level of competition really ain’t fair. Like Casey, he’s got a fair amount of sportsmanship that prevents him from really cutting loose in a game. Anyone can stick a metal bat out and roll a ground ball to the right side; that’s not exactly competition. No, this Casey needs to start facing guys who are 22, 23 and 24. He’s that far ahead of the curve. We have to keep this in mind when watching him now. You are seeing a fraction of what he is and what he is going to be. Give him to me against pro hitters. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to see.

But it sure is fun to watch, anyhow.

Read January 2012 Lucas Giolito Scouting Update
Watch Sneak Peak Lucas Giolito Video

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