As I’m sure most of you have heard by now, Lucas Giolito sprained his ulnar collateral ligament and will likely be out for the rest of the season. The right-handed pitcher out of Harvard-Westlake in California is the No.1 player on my new board, and many believe that he is a candidate to be the first ever prep right-hander to be selected with the first overall pick.
Let me say this first; I had the opportunity to interview Giolito for an article on his teammate Max Fried for ESPNHS, and he’s a great kid, with a great family, so with absolutely no journalistic integrity, I’ll say that the injury disheartens me quite a bit. I never like to see anyone get hurt, but when it’s someone as grounded and personable and you get to talk to them, it just makes you a little more sick.
What this does to the draft-class — and lets face it, that’s why you’re reading this article — might make teams just as sick, unfortunately. This was not a top-heavy group to begin with, and the injury to Giolito potentially makes it significantly weaker. Prep-pitching is the biggest risk in the draft; and there’s no reason to demand — or even expect — a club to spend their resources on a player that just had their season end due to injury.
With that being said, it is “only” a sprain, and it’s an injury that we’ve seen players recover from. Teams will do their homework, and if a club believes that this is a short-term injury, Giolito will still be a top five pick. Keep in mind that the right-hander is a strong commit to UCLA, and we’ve seen talented arms spurn the draft and do just fine (see Bauer and Cole). In other words, don’t expect the injury to all of a sudden make Giolito sign for under-slot, as there’s a good fallback plan if teams aren’t willing to ante up.
It’s still light-years away, but the injury to Giolito will have a major impact at the top of this draft, and that’s disappointing.