Giolito looking to make (and avoid) draft history
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Never in the 47-year history of the amateur baseball draft has a high school right-handed pitcher been selected first overall. Come June 4, that may change. Lucas Giolito, a 6’-6”, 220-pound flamethrower from Harvard Westlake HS in Los Angeles, California, is the top prep pitcher in the country, and maybe the best in the entire country.
Scouts have been in love with him for years now. I mean, what’s not to like? He has the size to be a future workhorse in the majors. His mound presence and feel for the game is far advanced for his age. And then there is the fastball. The one that has already been clocked at 100 mph this season, in early February, when most players are still building their stamina and throwing motion from the offseason. His repertoire is much more than a fastball, however. His curveball and change-up are projected plus pitches, and he also throws a split-finger fastball just to keep hitters off balance. He went 9-1 as a junior last season, with a 1.00 ERA and 78 strikeouts over 70 innings. He allowed 42 hits and just one home run. This season, he already has thrown a complete game one-hitter, striking out eight over seven innings, walking none.
Now, before we consider this some amazing feat, consider that, in total, only two high school pitchers have gone first overall — both left-handers, obviously.
The first was back in 1973 when the Texas Rangers selected David Clyde, a 6’-1” hard-throwing pitcher out of Westchester HS in Houston, Texas. During his senior season, he went 18-0 with a 0.18 ERA over 148 innings. The 148 innings is what most high school pitchers today total over their careers. Bob Short, the owner of the Rangers at the time, drafted him solely as a novelty act to attract fans to the ballpark. Clyde definitely had talent, but the Rangers would end up doing him a major injustice. After those 148 innings dominating 16- and 17-year-olds, he was thrown directly into the big leagues at age 18 to face grown men. He went 4-8, with a 5.01 ERA, 1.71 WHIP and 74 K/54 BB over 93.1 innings that year. He was completely outmatched, and the experience no doubt crushed his confidence … as well as his arm.
Over five major league seasons, he would end up going 18-33, with a 4.63 ERA, 1.53 WHIP and 228 K/180 BB over 416.1 innings. It is noted that arm problems ended his career, when in actuality, it was his own organization. Clyde didn’t have a chance, he was set up to fail from the beginning.
The only other high school pitcher to be selected first-overall was Brien Taylor. In 1991, the New York Yankees had the first pick in the draft after suffering their worst season since they were known as the New York Highlanders in 1912. Taylor was a 6’-3″, 200-pound wunderkind who struck out 213 batters over 88 innings as a senior at East Carteret HS in North Carolina. He was left-handed, his fastball hit triple-digits on the radar gun and, most importantly, Scott Boras was his agent.
Taylor was 20 when he started his pro career, a vast difference in physical maturity as compared to an 18-year-old Clyde. He had an extremely successful debut at single-A Fort Lauderdale, posting a 2.57 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with 187 K/66 BB over 161.1 innings. The Yankees thought they were looking at the next Dwight Gooden. He then followed that up with a less successful season at double-A Albany in 1993. While his 3.48 ERA and 150 strikeouts over 163 innings was still impressive given his age and the competition, his 102 walks allowed were a troubling sign. On December 18, 1993, a fight while defending his brother lead to a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum.
Over the next four seasons, never pitching above class-A ball, his numbers were simply amazing, but not in a good way. Over 108.2 innings, he walked a staggering 175 batters., including 43 over 16.1 innings in 1996. He had a 10.86 ERA, 2.60 WHIP and only 86 strikeouts over those four years. The fight played a huge part in ending his once-promising career, but he also later acknowledged that the pressure of living up to being the first-overall pick, as well as playing for the Yankees, made the stress too much.
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