The Chicago White Sox rebuild has continued in earnest today as CSN’s Dan Hayes is reporting that Chicago has dealt outfielder Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals in exchange for high-end pitching prospects Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning. They’re rated the #1, #3, and #6 prospects respectively in Washington’s system, according to MLB Pipeline.
This is a significant development as Eaton was under control for five seasons, which demonstrates just how scorched earth this overhaul figures to be. Anytime a player on a controllable and cheap contract is dealt, the surplus value has to be appropriately met. The Nationals have done that and then some. Lucas Gioltio was rated the #3 prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline, but the return is far from thin after him. Here’s a deeper analysis on Giolito and quick snapshots on the other names involved.
FutureSox will offer a deeper dive on the return in a subsequent article, but here is some necessary surface level info regarding the return in Rick Hahn’s latest blockbuster.
Entering his senior year of high school, Lucas Giolito was the overwhelming favorite to become the first prep right-hander to be selected first overall. That all came crashing down when in an early March start, he felt discomfort in his elbow that forced him out of the game. An MRI revealed damage in Giolito’s ulnar collateral ligament. That ended his season and his chances of going #1 overall. As the draft approached and it became apparent that Giolito would need Tommy John surgery, teams begin to balk at the prospect of investing a high first round pick in damaged goods. On draft day Giolito fell all the way to the Nationals with the 16th pick and two and half months later he was under the knife. Ten months later, Giolito was back and pitching effectively, posting a 1.96 ERA over 36.2 innings. The Nationals took things very conservatively, limiting Giolito to 98 dominant innings and spending the full 2014 season in Class A Hagerstown. Giolito breezed through A+ and finished the 2015 season with AA, combining between the two affiliates to post a 3.15 ERA with 131 strikeouts over 117 innings. In 2016, Giolito spent the majority of the year in AA, but then saw seven AAA starts and finally he appeared in six games (four starts) with the big league club. Giolito finished his ascension through the minor leagues with a 2.73 ERA, and a 9.7 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 rate.
Giolito’s stats have been solid but not otherworldly, so you may be asking yourself, why all the hype? First off, Giolito is a physical specimen right out of a pitcher coach’s dream at 6’6” and 255 pounds. Considered to be an excellent athlete, Giolito’s delivery is easy and repeatable. He utilizes his strong lower half combined with his size to create a strong downward plane. This is especially evident on his fastball, which sits 93-96 MPH and topping out in the upper 90’s. It features the aforementioned downhill move and horizontal movement which scouts comfortably assign a 60-70 grade. Giolito also has been featuring a two-seamer fastball, giving hitters another look in addition to the four-seamer. While most pitchers work around a plus fastball, Giolito features a true plus curveball that flashes plus plus with incredible depth at it’s velocity of 82-86 MPH. It is an old school 12-6 hammer curve which he can bury in the dirt or throw for strikes. Thanks to these two pitches, Giolito is a groundball machine, and according to MLBfarm.com, was generating over half of batted balls into grounders during the 2016 season. Giolito’s second breaking ball is a developing mid-80’s change-up that falls between a 45 to 55 on the scouting 20-80 scale. He supposedly has been working heavily on his change-up over the past couple seasons and uses it effectively against left-handers, resulting in reverse splits as a right-handed hurler.
While Giolito has his question marks at this stage in his career, the White Sox have earned the benefit of the doubt on pitcher development. With Giolito’s exceptional size, velocity, stuff, and plenty of athleticism, he checks all the boxes for a true front of the rotation stud. When you are trading someone with as much cheap control and value as Adam Eaton, you have to receive elite talent back in return. Giolito is certainly an elite talent and under the guidance of Don Cooper, his upside is a true ace for many years to come.
*Rob Young contributed to Giolito’s profile*
RHP Reynaldo Lopez
Lopez is a solid secondary piece in this deal, and is almost a headliner in his own right. The nationals got Lopez on the cheap as an international signing in 2012 but don’t let the mere $17,000 price tag fool you. With a thin build (6-0, 185 lb) Lopez’s velocity was in question at first, but he’s developed significantly since his teen years. He now features what MLB Pipeline grades as a 70-fastball, which flashes life and can touch 100 MPH and regularly levels out in the mid-90s. He also offers a power curve as that could eventually rate as plus. As common with pitchers, the change up will determine his fate. He is the #38 prospect in all of MLB, according to MLB Pipeline.
If Lopez can develop a third offering and iron out his fastball command, he has a chance to be a decent starter in the big leagues. He saw some time with the Nationals and struggled to a 4.91 ERA over six starts. It’s a small sample but a 3.92 FIP and low strand rate paint his struggles as more of a mirage. While the strikeouts were there (8.59 K/9) and have been for much of his time in the minors, Lopez had serious control issues at the big league level (4.50 BB/9). That was well above his norms in the minors, so it’s probably an abberation. Either way, he’ll need some refining. Chicago maximizes pitches and in theory Lopez could undergo that necessary seasoning with the MLB team in 2017.
RHP Dane Dunning
Dunning was Washington’s first round pick (29th overall) in the 2016 draft. Dunning was a reliever with the Florida Gators but has the goods to start. He already sports a plus fastball that can run up to 95 MPH. His breaking ball is fringe right now, but an average change up gives him a chance for three offerings. Dunning is a relatively low-maintenance arm with a lower ceiling than the other names in this deal, but he offsets that with a reasonable chance to make an impact as a backend arm.
Dunning was ranked the 6th best prospect in the Washington system by MLB Pipeline.
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