Lucas Giolito, the Nationals' superb prospect, is a hulking man. He stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 255 pounds. He towers over just about everybody in baseball and cuts an even more imposing figure on the mound. Standing inside Washington's clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium Monday, holding a four-ounce can of cranberry juice, his size was even more pronounced. The drink, in his fingers, looked like a prop—as if Gulliver was handed a can from the Lilliputians.
The size, of course, is only part of his profile. The 21-year-old right-hander didn't become the top pitching prospect in baseball on just girth. He did that with the help of a high 90s fastball and a devastating curveball.
Giolito is not short on confidence either. He enjoys being dubbed the best pitching prospect in the sport.
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"It's pretty cool to be considered the top guy ,but my main focus is turning that top prospect status into a winning big leaguer," he said. "That's the main focus. It's cool but at the same time it doesn't really mean anything until you get up to The Show and start producing."
That could come soon enough. Nationals manager Dusty Baker is already impressed. Giolito' has made a mark during spring training with his demeanor and inquisitiveness in addition to his stuff.
"He's going to go a long ways," Baker said.
Giolito hopes to produce for the Nationals sooner than later. He watched as Noah Syndergaard —last year's hyped pitching prospect—debuted in the majors for the Mets last May and ended up starting Game 3 of the World Series in a star-studded rotation. Giolito could slot in similarly on a team with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, and their own postseason hopes.
"I would like to get up there and contribute as soon as I can," he said.
Yet, although Golito may be a baseball prodigy—a former first-round pick who could debut in the majors this season despite having undergone Tommy John surgery soon after he was drafted out of high school in 2012—he also took a turn away from the family business to do it. He comes from a family of actors and screenwriters. The Santa Monica native is rooted in Hollywood.
His mother, Lindsay Frost, had prominent roles in The Ring and Collateral Damage. His dad, Rick, was an actor too. His uncle, Mark Frost, is a writer who co-created Twin Peaks and worked on two Fantastic Four movies. His grandfather and his brother, Giolito says, are actors too.
Acting, however, didn't appeal to Giolito. He found baseball more interesting. His last role came when he was in fourth or fifth grade, he says, as "Knight No. 2."
Memorializing lines was too difficult and too daunting. Giolito would run lines with his mom when he was younger but found even that hard. Performing was even worse.
"Being on stage with lights on you and the crowd, it's like, I don't know, that scares me," Giolito said. "It's way different than pitching in front of 30,000. I think performing a sport is way easier to do in front of people than entertain them with your acting and try to be funny or whatever it is."
This seems counter-intuitive, of course. On the mound, Giolito is alone. He, more than anyone else on his team, is responsible for their success or failure. Pitchers are alone in the spotlight as long as they are in the game.
But Giolito finds a calm in baseball's long and redeeming season that does not exist in film and theater.
"There's something about acting that just doesn't appeal to me," he said. "I love watching movies and film and theater too. I have that in my blood, I guess, but I feel like it's too much pressure to go out there on a stage. Especially in theater, going out there on a stage and having to remember lines for a three-hour play, I don't know. How bad would it feel to screw up a line pretty bad and then you ruin a scene and then there's all these people that are like 'Oh, that was awkward'? It's different. In baseball, you might have a bad day and fail and be like 'Dang, I didn't help my team win' but there's 162 games and you learn from it and you get another shot."
If he was to pick a familial industry, Giolito is more likely to invest himself in his father's trade. Rick began working for Electronic Arts, the video game company, after he stopped acting. He was an executive producer for the Medal of Honor franchise and has worked on other games like Knockout Kings.
Giolito says if baseball didn't work out for him, he'd have gone that route. He loves computer games and plays them zealously. He'll use them to unwind and relax, favoring video games more than anything else—when he's not pitching and being baseball's top pitching prospect.