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Heist: With first-round pick, Nats take a chance

Tuesday - 6/5/2012, 7:32am  ET

Craig Heist, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The Washington Nationals decided pitching was the way to go with the 16th pick in the first round of Monday's 2012 First-Year Player Draft by selecting right-hander Studio City, Calif.'s Lucas Giolito from Harvard-Westlake high school.

Giolito stands 6-foot-6, weighs 230 lbs. and is regarded as one of the most advanced right-handed prep prospects to come out of Southern California in the last 20 years.

He went 9-1 with 78 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.00 in 70.1 innings as a senior. Also on the resume were three shutouts and four complete games.

Giolito's fastball has been clocked at 100 mph, and he has what GM Mike Rizzo called, "a power curve ball." But he does come with elbow problems suffered earlier in the year, spraining his ulnar collateral nerve but that did not stop the Nats from making him their pick in the first round.

"We were on this guy from day one," said Rizzo. "We just felt the reward outweighed the risk. We did our homework and our due diligence on his health and his makeup and we decided that this is the type of player, the type of stuff and the type of ceiling that we want here in the Washington Nationals organization."

The Nats last saw Giolito pitch in the Aflac All-American Baseball Classic earlier this year and from all accounts, Giolito's velocity on his fast ball had dropped below 95 mph.

"In Aflac he was probably 93-to-97, pitching at 94," said Nats Scouting Director Kris Kline. "But a little later on, you could tell something wasn't quite right, but we stayed on him. When he is 100 percent, he goes Top 3 in this draft. It's kind of a no-brainer."

Standing pat on their philosophy to take the "best available player" Rizzo and the Nationals have gone through the process in making sure Giolito is on his way to being a healthy pitcher.

"The elbow is good," said Rizzo. "He's been throwing on flat ground and long tossing on a throwing program. We feel confident about, he feels confident about it and we will see once we get our hands on him, in our uniform, we'll see where he's at."

"This guy can impact a rotation. [Giolito] is a big physical guy that fits in with the other physical, hard-throwing guys that we already have."

Assistant GM and VP of Baseball Personnel, Roy Clark was impressed with what he saw from Giolito last year.

"I saw him several times last summer," he said. "Up to 98 with a plus curve ball and a real good change-up, 6' 6" and again, a top of the rotation guy that you can get at 16 and our doctor's reports, everything was fine and it was a no-brainers for us."

Ask Clark who Giolito reminds him of and he said, "A good comparison might be Roy Halladay when everything's clicking. So, we'll take that every year in the draft."

The Nationals will next pick 80th overall, their second round choice and then their next pick will be in the third round, the 111th overall.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)