Lucas Giolito finished his final high school exam last week. Late Tuesday afternoon he was on a bus en route to a senior class retreat and on Friday he will graduate from Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, Calif. All in the day of the life of your average 17-year-old in June. But by this time next month, the gifted right-handed pitcher could far surpass his peers in one way. He could be a millionaire.
The Nationals took advantage of Giolito's March elbow injury, which caused his stock to plummet in Major League Baseball's draft this week. Instead of a potential top-five selection, Giolito was still available for Washington at No. 16. The organization happily grabbed the prep star there.
"I had no idea where I was going to go off the board," Giolito said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday just a few hours before joining his classmates on that retreat. "And I was sitting there and I was surrounded by my family and close friends. It was really just a huge surprise to get taken by such a great organization. Right when it happened it just kind of struck me. I was speechless. It was just an awesome moment."
Now, Washington general manager Mike Rizzo's task is to persuade Giolito that signing with his organization and starting a pro career is preferable to the scholarship waiting for him at hometown UCLA. As in most of these cases, the final dollar figure will help determine that -- otherwise Giolito's advisors would have told big-league clubs to pass on their client.
"We're going to make every attempt to sign [Giolito] and with the new rules in the collective bargaining, it's a different ballgame," Rizzo said. "So we're going to put our best foot forward and try and sell him on our place here in Washington is the place that will get him the healthiest and give him the best opportunity to do what he wants to do and that's pitch in the big leagues."
Rizzo on Monday downplayed concerns about Giolito's elbow strain. He did not require surgery and is progressing in his rehabilitation process, now long-tossing from almost 300 feet and pitching from flat ground. The Nats believe that if signed, Giolito could get his feet wet in the minors later this summer. Most high school pitchers don't have the wear-and-tear on their arms that college pitchers do after three seasons at that level because they are not asked to throw as many pitches. But for the Nats, it's first things first: Signing him to a contract.
"If the situation is right I'll go play pro ball. But obviously I picked UCLA for a reason," Giolito said. "It's one of the best baseball programs in all of college baseball. [Coach] John Savage has been unbelievable with pitchers his whole career, especially the past few years. UCLA is a really big option for me, and we'll see how everything plays out."