When Lucas Giolito was drafted in the first round by the Washington Nationals, he was seen as the ultimate high-risk, high-reward proposition. It's suddenly looking like the risk half of that equation might win out.
If Giolito could remain healthy, he could use the almost un-hittable, triple-digit fastball and precision point curveball that once made him a likely top overall pick in the MLB entry draft. If he couldn't, the Nats would have to spend millions of dollars to obtain a pitcher with a long road of recovery in front of him and an uncertain future in baseball.
After the draft, Giolito and the Nats spent more than a month negotiating a deal, eventually agreeing to a contract that included $2.925 million in signing bonus money despite his health concerns. The deal was struck just minutes before the deadline for Giolito to sign, or else he would have had to head to UCLA, where he had committed to play.
At the time, Nats officials cheered. Now they may be ruing the very contract they celebrated just weeks earlier.
After just two innings of work for the Nationals' Gulf Coast League short-season A affiliate, Giolito was pulled from a game because of a significant decrease in his velocity. According to ESPN's Keith Law, Giolito has since been sent to visit orthopedic surgery specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum for further evaluation.
As any true baseball fan will tell you, when Dr. Yocum becomes involved bad things tend to happen. While it is still entirely possible that Giolito will be pronounced fine with more rest to his pitching arm, the trip to Yocum is an ominous sign about his future.
All of these developments paint a troubling picture for a prospect who was seen as the next great draft pick in the Nats system, following in a lineage that included phenoms Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
Regardless of what happens next, Giolito will now serve as the latest poster boy for the risk of drafting a previously injured prep pitcher. No matter how talented they may be, those picks are always high risk, high reward. Sometimes the risk is bound to win out. Now all anyone can do is hope that sentiment doesn't serve as an epitaph for Giolito's professional career.
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