It wasn't exactly supposed to go like this.
The initial script called for Lucas Giolito and Max Fried, the two best high school arms in the country, to join forces at Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles, win a title and then be taken in the top 10 of the First-Year Player Draft. Then the pair would be faced with the win-win decision of either beginning a pro career or honoring commitments to pitch at UCLA.
Things went off-script early, when Giolito went down with an elbow injury in April. The good news is that the elbow didn't require surgery; his sprained UCL just needed rest and rehab. The bad news, both for Harvard-Westlake and for scouts, was that the player who some thought could become the first high school right-hander to go No. 1 overall wouldn't pitch again all spring.
"Right after I got injured, I was pretty depressed for a little bit, but it's not really something you can worry about, because there's that next day," Giolito said. "That's how I face it. I can't help my team by pitching anymore, but I decided I'd start helping in other ways. I sit at the top of the dugout and [am] as loud as I can, lose my voice every game. I support all the players. I feel very much a part of the team in that aspect."
"It was terrible," Fried said. "I knew how much Lucas wanted to be out there and how much he wanted to help the team win. Seeing him not be able to do that and how hard he worked over the summer and winter, it was heartbreaking. I wish I could have played with him."
Fried and Giolito didn't have the chance to be teammates for long. Fried had previously pitched for Montclair Prep, also in Los Angeles, but when that school ended its athletics program, Fried became a free agent of sorts. When the opportunity arose for him to join forces with Giolito, whom he had befriended at Area Code tryouts the summer prior, he jumped at the chance.
"I was definitely advocating it," Giolito said. "Throughout that whole summer, I'd been with him that whole time. I'd seen him pitch, that unbelievable left arm. Having him at H-W has been unbelievable. I told him he's a serious baseball player, he's a hard-working kid. The baseball side speaks for itself, seeing what he's done."
And without Giolito by his side, Fried has pitched his way to being a bona fide candidate for a top-10 pick. He did have a couple of rough starts, causing some concern, but he turned that around with a lights-out start in the playoffs with decision-makers from many top teams in attendance.
"Max goes through spurts when he wants to do everything on his own," Harvard-Westlake coach Matt LaCour said. "He's at his best when he's pitching to contact and getting guys out early in the count. He's shown when he's at his best, he's going to strike out guys. He just doesn't need to strike out every guy.
"That's something with extended time on the mound, he'll learn. He will try to overthrow at times, but mechanically, he's in a good spot. I wouldn't identify that as something people need to be worried about in the future."
Giolito's future is more in doubt at this point. Whereas Fried is being mentioned as high as No. 5 overall, Giolito is just working on getting back to full health. After considerable time off the field, he was able to resume throwing in recent weeks. Hopes of getting back on the mound pre-Draft won't come to fruition, but Giolito was stretched out to 220 feet during a throwing session on Monday. He was reportedly letting the ball go, with it flying out of his hand.
"It's been going really well," Giolito said of his rehab, during which he is focusing on strengthening his arm, back and core. "Those things all carry on for the rest of my life, for my whole baseball career. In a way the injury is a blessing in disguise because I've learned all these things to be a better, stronger player in the future."
Giolito says that his immediate future, as it pertains to the Draft, doesn't overly concern him, as it's something he can't control. But he might be the biggest wild card in this Draft, especially with the new rules in place limiting spending. In past years, a player in Giolito's situation could slide in the Draft, and some team could pay over-slot to bring him into the fold. That's much trickier these days, with most thinking that the only teams that could make it happen are ones with multiple picks that can be more creative with their collective Draft bonus pools.
Coverage of the opening round and Compensation Round A will be aired by MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com on Monday at 7 p.m. ET. Rounds 2-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on June 5-6.
MLB.com's coverage, sponsored by CenturyLink, includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that features a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter, and you can get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
"You factor all this stuff in, him not being with us for a while now, on the field. Couple that with the way the Draft is for the first year, I don't know what's going to happen," LaCour said. "I know this, though. As a Major League organization, it's really hard to pass by a kid that has shown that he was one of the top three guys going into this Draft, no doubt, when healthy.
"Based on everything I've heard and seen, his health is great. I don't know how you watch him go by without looking really hard at him. I think great arguments can be made either way. I think Lucas is going to show that he's on the road back. This will be a blip on the screen."
If that is the case, then perhaps Fried and Giolito can fulfill the plan that looked so promising heading into this season. If it couldn't happen at Harvard-Westlake, then maybe it can come to pass at UCLA or even at the highest level.
"It's always been cool to think, 'What if we were on the same team in the future in the Major Leagues?'" Giolito said. "Whether we go to college together or play pro together, it's always been a cool idea."
"[We were thinking], 'What if we were on the same team in high school,' and it sort of evolved into what it is now," Fried added. "It would be great to play on the same team as Lucas again. I'd have no problem with that."