By Robbie Loeb
In Major League Baseball, six first overall draft picks have been named Most Valuable Player. All six were drafted out of high school.
Right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito ’12 could be the number one overall selection in the MLB draft in June 2012, according to ESPN scouting insider Jason Churchill.
“It’s cool to see your name up there with some of the best players in the country,” Giolito said. “What I’m really focused on now is putting in work and getting better, so I can make those kinds of things a reality. If I put in a lot of work now and have a good season, I’ll be in the best position for my future.”
Giolito is committed to play at UCLA next year along with his teammate, left-handed pitcher Max Fried ’12. The dynamic duo signed their letters of intent with the Bruins on Nov. 9 but could potentially head straight for the MLB instead.
“It’s always been my goal to reach the highest level I can for myself,” Giolito said. “Anything to do with the draft is not a part of my goals right now. My goals are to pitch well for my team and to win CIF.”
MLB scouts will likely be at a number of the Wolverines’ games to watch Fried and Giolito pitch.
“That’s the fun of the whole thing,” one American League scouting supervisor said in Churchill’s article. “We see what he is right now, but we have to ask what he is going to be in nine months, and what he might turn into between then and his rise to the majors.”
“Talking about the draft in November doesn’t make any sense and is not something we will discuss right now,” Head Coach Matt LaCour said. “Lucas has goals for this year that focus around him continuing the path of development he has been on for the past three years.”
The Harvard-Westlake product’s fastballs hover around the mid-90 mph range, but on occasion have reached speeds as high as 98 mph.
“I’ve put a lot of practice time into refining pitches and working on the mental side of things,” Giolito said. “I’m trying to reach the ceiling of my potential. If that affects my draft stock, then so be it, but I’m not really worried about the draft right now. I’m working hard in the weight room, and my arm feels pretty good, so we’ll see where things go.”
Currently, Giolito’s greatest competition for the number one pick is Mark Appel, a junior at Stanford University. Eerily similar to Giolito, Appel is a 6-foot-6 right-handed power pitcher with a big frame, good arm speed and an easy delivery.
Giolito met Appel at the USA Baseball Prospect Classic in July.
“I have a lot of respect for [Appel], and he’s doing a lot of good work at Stanford,” Giolito said. “I don’t think too much about comparing myself to other people, and there are a lot of good players in this draft class. All I care about is being the best I can be.”
Giolito appeared on Varsity Roundup, Time Warner Cable’s weekly prep show, on Nov. 9 to talk about UCLA and the draft.
“My personality changes a little bit come gameday,” Giolito said on the show. “At school, I might be a little bit quieter, and I might be a little more zoned in, but when I get on the mound, it’s like something totally changes. I get in that zone and become like a killer.”
No right-handed pitcher has ever been selected out of high school with the first overall pick.
The Houston Astros hold the first selection at the draft on June 4.
MLB teams usually stay away from high school prospects unless scouts believe the player will go straight to the pros and skip college. If a high school player is drafted but goes to college instead, the team that drafted that player loses the contracted rights to that player, and he can be drafted out of college again to a different team. Former Wolverine centerfielder Austin Wilson ’10 was projected to be drafted in the top 10, but fell to the 12th round due to his strong commitment to Stanford and academics.
Fried is currently projected to be drafted towards the end of the first round, but with a good season, the 6-foot-3 southpaw could shoot into the top 10, according to Churchill.
“It’s definitely exciting, and I’m really humbled,” Fried said. “Not very many people get to be in the position I am, and I’m really grateful. There’s still a lot of work to do, but nothing is written in stone. Being a first round pick has been my dream, along with playing in the major leagues. We still have around seven months, so it’s a lot of time to think.”
Fried committed to UCLA his sophomore year while he attended Montclair Prep. He transferred to Harvard-Westlake from Montclair for his senior year, after Montclair Prep shut down its athletic program.
“Right now my teammates have really embraced me with arms wide open,” Fried said. “The only difficult thing right now is the change of school, but baseball-wise everything has been a good transition. I just have to keep working hard and have fun playing the game. It can get stressful at times, but I play the best when I’m having fun.”
To see Churchill’s full story, click here.
Giolito made an appearance on Varsity Roundup, Time Warner Cable’s weekly prep show. To see part of the interview, click here.