Nationals fans have been eager to see Lucas Giolito in Washington ever since he was chosen with the 16th overall pick in the 2012 Draft.
They got their wish on Thursday, although MLB.com's No. 8 prospect overall was not at Nationals Park to pitch, but to be recognized as the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year. At a doubleheader against the Mets, the 20-year-old righty reflected on his first full season.
"Physically it's on a whole other level," Giolito told MLB.com. "You're pitching every fifth day. You're going out there throwing five innings-plus, trying to stay out there as long as you can. There's a certain physical aspect to it that you've got to stay on your program, stay in shape and do all the right things. I felt I stayed strong throughout the year and ended up having a good one."
He went 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA and 110 strikeouts compared to 28 walks over 20 starts with Class A Hagerstown. He also appeared in the Futures Game, twice took home South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week honors and was named the circuit's Most Outstanding Pitcher and Top Major League Prospect.
Giolito made one Gulf Coast League start in his debut year before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He made 11 starts between the GCL and the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League last season.
The Santa Monica, Calif., native admitted making the jump to full-season ball was a challenge.
"It's like nothing you've ever done before in baseball," he said. "It's a really long grind, but it's really fun."
Fifth-ranked Nationals prospect Steven Souza was named the team's Minor League Player of the Year, and No. 19 prospect Wilmer Difo was presented with the second annual Bob Boone Award, which is given to a Minor Leaguer who plays "the Nationals Way."
Souza, who's currently on Washington's active roster, batted .350/.432/.590 with 18 home runs, 75 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in 33 attempts over 96 games with Triple-A Syracuse, helping the Chiefs win their first division title since 1989 and capturing the International League Most Valuable Player Award. The 25-year-old was also a mid- and postseason All-Star as well as the circuit's Rookie of the Year.
"It has been tremendous year, to cap it off with this award, I'm just truly honored, especially with the guys that have won it in the past," Souza told MLB.com.
Difo received the South Atlantic League Most Valuable Player Award after hitting .315/.360/.470 with 14 home runs, 90 RBIs and 49 stolen bases in 58 attempts across 136 games with Class-A Hagerstown. The 22-year-old's season also included mid- and postseason All-Star selections.
Mark Emery is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Emery.