Nationals Willing To Spend To Land Lucas Giolito

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Lucas Giolito's senior year didn't go as hoped, but his amateur career still resulted in a big payday. Moments before the 5 p.m. ET signing deadline on July 13, the Harvard-Westlake High (Studio City, Calif.) righthander and the Nationals agreed to a $2,925,000 bonus.

"It was down to the wire and those anxieties are there especially when you're considering joining a professional program or going to an unbelievable school to pursue an unbelievable education," said Giolito, who had committed to UCLA. "It was a very tough decision, but I feel like the decision I made is the best decision for me."

Giolito entered the season as the top high school pitcher in the 2012 draft class and was a strong candidate to become the first prep righthander ever selected first overall. The 6-foot-6, 240-pounder generated even more buzz when his fastball touched 100 mph in a game on Feb. 28.

But a week later, Giolito left a start with pain in his elbow. Tests revealed a sprained ulnar collateral ligament, with doctors determining that he could heal with rest and rehabilitation instead of Tommy John surgery.

Though Giolito began throwing 60 feet on flat ground in early May, he was unable to return to game action before the draft. Once considered a lock to go in the first five picks, his destination was unknown on draft day. The Nationals jumped on him with the 16th overall pick, continuing what could be a magical run in the last four drafts.

With the No. 1 overall picks in 2009 and 2010, Washington selected the best pitching prospect (Stephen Strasburg) and the top power prospect (Bryce Harper) in draft history, both of whom have helped the club compile the National League's best record this season. With the sixth overall pick last year, the Nationals landed Anthony Rendon, the top hitter in his draft class. Rendon played just two games this season before fracturing his left ankle on April 6.

If Rendon can shake his injury issues and Giolito regains his health and previous form, Washington could have four superstars from four straight first-round picks. The team spent $35.1 million in bonuses and guaranteed salaries in major league contracts to sign them

The Nationals also will pay $84,225 as a tax penalty under new draft rules because Giolito's bonus pushed them past their allocated $4,548,500 bonus pool for the first 10 rounds. Giolito received $800,000 more than his pick's assigned value, while eight of Washington's next nine picks signed for less than theirs.

Despite the questions about Giolito's health, Nationals scouting director Kris Kline said it was an easy call to take him with the No. 16 choice.

"We felt that he was a front-of-the-rotation guy and was the best player available," Kline said. "That's why we took him. When this kid is right, he's touching 100 and he'll pitch at 94-95 with a power curveball."

After signing, Giolito headed to the Nationals' training base in Viera, Fla. He said he's ready to get back on the mound, though Kline said Washington will assesss Giolito physically before determining whether he'll pitch in an official minor league game this summer.