Elbow Issues Drop Giolito To Nationals

WASHINGTON—Even when the Nationals pick 16th overall, they find a way to pick a player who was once projected as a potential top overall selection.

Coming into the year, California high school righthander Lucas Giolito was in the mix as one of the top talents in the nation. He sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow in early March, but that didn't deter Washington from taking him.

"We did our homework and due diligence on his makeup and character, and we decided this is the type of player and type of ceiling we want in the Washington Nationals organization," general manager Mike Rizzo said at Nationals Park minutes after the selection.

Giolito, a 6-foot-6, 230-pounder from Harvard-Westlake High in Studio City, joins an organization that had landed a premium talent early in each of the past three drafts. Righthander Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper went first overall in 2009 and 2010 before Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon was taken sixth last year. Rendon has missed all but two games this season because of a partially fractured ankle.

If Giolito signs before the July 13 deadline, he may see more work than most first-rounders because he was limited to 17 innings this spring. The 17-year-old went 2-1, 0.84 with 15 strikeouts while allowing seven hits and three walks. He was on the same high school staff as lefthander Max Fried, drafted seventh overall by the Padres.

Nationals officials say Giolito is back to long-tossing 220 feet off flat ground. A UCLA signee, Giolito's regimen makes former Bruins star Trevor Bauer's "long toss look like kid stuff," a scout told Baseball America.

When healthy, Giolito has a high-90s fastball, a power curveball in the mid-80s and a plus changeup.

"When he's 100 percent, he goes top three in this draft, so it's kind of a no-brainer," scouting director Kris Kline said.

Rizzo said the organization had access to all of Giolito's medical reports through the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic. In the end, the "reward outweighed the risk," he said. Rizzo also said the drafting of Giolito would not change the club's approach to the rest of its picks in the first 10 rounds.

"We're going to make every effort to sign him," Rizzo said. "With the new rules in the collective bargaining, it's a different ballgame, but we'll do everything we can. He's a big, physical guy that fits in with the other big, physical guys we already have."

As for upside, vice president of player personnel Roy Clark said, "The comparison might be Roy Halladay when everything's clicking, so we'd take that."

• Art Silber, the 71-year-old owner of the high Class A Potomac Nationals, announced he will no longer coach first base on occasion. The move allows injured Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to be the last active No. 42 in professional baseball. Silber had worn the number because he grew up in Brooklyn and would wait to walk alongside Jackie Robinson. "Walking with Jackie Robinson was like walking with God," Silber said.

• Outfielder Corey Brown, 26, briefly joined the Nationals after hitting home runs in five straight games out of the leadoff spot at Triple-A Syracuse. Overall for the Chiefs, he had 12 homers in 191 at-bats and six stolen bases.