Honestly, I wanted to take this whole week off. That was kind of my plan, but five minutes into getting my ass whipped by my 7 year old in video games, I decided to throw in the towel and retire to my study, determined to find Jesus. What I discovered instead was a 98 MPH fastball, a coaster from Dr. James Andrews waiting room, a video of Mike Rizzo writing his name and a smug photo of Billy Beane on a treadmill. What kind of Christmas caper did I find myself involved with? Is this the plot line to Ocean’s 16? A film I’m pitching to Grey about me and a bunch of unsigned international prospects storming Dan Duquette’s office, and demanding he sign them all… Why was the couch in my study talking to me? And what exactly was in my Aunt’s “medicated” candied bacon? I had to get to the bottom of this. But first, let’s talk about why Oakland Athletics lefthanded pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo has me ready to scorn my life of sin and debauchery for a higher purpose.

 

When news broke on July 16th that the Oakland Athletics had traded a tandem of relievers in Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to the Washington Nationals for Blake Treinen, Sheldon Neuse, and Jesus Luzardo, most of the reaction was centered around the Nationals adding some much needed bullpen help. And rightfully so. They were a playoff team that had long needed reinforcements in the back end of their bullpen. But if you know me, you know that’s just not how I think. I’m always focused on the prospects, and I did have some general familiarity with both. Neuse was a former second rounder out of Oklahoma with a good bat, a useful player, and one I’ve covered, but he didn’t get the juices going. That feeling was reserved for Luzardo. A prep lefty with first round talent, who tore his UCL at the wrong time; March of his senior year of high school. This caused Luzardo’s draft stock to obviously plummet, allowing the Washington Nationals to snag him in the third round of the 2016 draft. If you’re someone who follows the draft, you’re probably well aware that the Nationals have made an art out of drafting highly talented arms with UCL tears, and turning them into to pretty good prospects (see Giolito, Lucas or Fedde, Erick). Luzardo was the next in a long line of these types.

His professional debut was a success, allowing 2 runs over 13.2 innings for the Nats squad in the Gulf Coast League. Most impressively he struckout 15 batters without issuing a walk prior to the trade. Then the aforementioned trade went down, Luzardo was shipped to Oakland and the rest as they say is, well, the rest of  his season. Upon joining the Athletics organization Luzardo was assigned to the rookie level Arizona League, and proceeded to make four appearances, three of them starts, totaling 11.2 innings,  and again allowing just 2 earned runs. This time he struckout 13 batters while issuing a single walk.

Following 25.1 stellar innings of rookie ball the Athletics felt it was time to promote Luzardo, assigning him to the Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York Penn League. There Luzardo continued to impress, going 18 innings over 5 starts, allowing 4 runs, while striking out 20 to just 4 walks. Needless to say, one might deduct that Luzardo has the ability to miss bats without having to sacrifice control. Excellent signs from a young lefty with electrifying stuff. Oh you want to know more about his stuff? **Nods Head**

Luzardo’s arsenal is led by a four-seam fastball that sits mid-90’s, popping 98 on occasion. It features good sinking action, and he locates it well to both sides of the plate. His curveball gets plus grades, and looks like a serious out pitch. See for yourself…

That’s a nasty breaking ball, and with how well he hides the ball it’s an impossible pitch for rookie ball hitters to pickup. And that’s not an isolated incident, throughout Luzardo’s rookie ball videos you see his advanced feel for his curveball. Putting something on it here, and taking something off there, burying that knockout blow over and over again. It gets better, every scout that has watched him universally agrees his changeup is his best secondary, and I’ve seen a few 70 grades put on it. Serious stuff.

The question obviously remains, much like it does with previous sleeper focus Jorge Guzman, how much can we really trust what we’ve seen at the lower levels? It’s a fair question, and one we cannot answer definitively right now. I can say it’s not often you see a player regain his stuff, and more importantly feel and control so quickly following elbow surgery. It’s also rare to see a pitcher, outside the most polished college arms, enter pro-ball with such a well defined breaking ball, and really lethal off-speed pitch. This combined with the deception of his delivery from the leftside adds up to a potentially elite pitching prospect in the not too distant future. There’s certainly durability questions as there are with all pitchers coming back from arm surgery, but it’s no longer uncharted waters.

Go add Jesus Luzardo where you can.

Oh, here he is striking out Giants first rounder Heliot Ramos… Go add him!

 

Find all of the 30 Minor League Previews, and Offseason Rankings on the Minor League Index
On Twitter as @ProspectJesus

  1. Bill says:
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    Ralph, Seems like you found the reason for the season!

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Bill: Yes! It’s Jesus the Lizard king!

  2. Count de Monetball says:
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    Ralph, I think reading your prospect posts and listening to your podcast makes me want to play in a dynasty league. Great job covering these guys dude! Just please don’t burn yourself out I want to read the Lifshitz for years !

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Count de Monetball: Not a porblem! I love this stuff, and I’m a 35 year old Dad. Outside of my kids this is my social life.

  3. Racehorse says:
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    Ralpb —

    Jesus Luardo? Thanks to you he’s just been added to my mighty dynasty spreadsheet.

    Question … me offering Lewis Brinson and Luiz Gohara for Rafeal Devers — too much on my part?

    • Slappy Jack says:
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      @Racehorse: seems fair to me

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Racehorse: It’s an aggressive price tag, but itf you really want Devers I could see doing it. It’s more than I would want to give up, but would depend on my team.

  4. Jose says:
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    Ralph:
    I am creating a backup system for my two NL teams, from players in the 18-20 years of age range. Some of the better players are gone already (F. Tatis Jr, M. Gore, Etc.)
    As you know my teams are Scoresheet and I am looking for Sluggers with high OBP and OPS, I also prefer power pitcher with good WHIP and high K%.

    Any comments in any of them are welcome, please. Let me know if I missed a few and I will check and see if they are still available.
    I would like to find a couple of power lefties, guys who throw 95+ like Luzardo does.

    Thanks, Jose

    C: Kibert Ruiz (19) * * Owned in one team already.
    1B: Mason Martin (18), Gabriel Garcia (20)
    2B: Esteury Ruiz (19)
    3B: Austin Rilley (20), Sherten Apostel, Colten Welker (20)
    SS: Gabriel Arias (18), Ryan Vilade (19)

    OF: Ronald Acuna (20) ** ** Owned in both teams already.
    OF: Taylor Trammell (20)
    OF: Jhaillyn Ortiz (19)

    SP: Sixto Sanchez RHP (19)
    SP: Adrian Morejon LHP (19)
    SP: Shane Baz RHP (19)

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Jose: I love this squad, tons of talent everywhere.

      • Jose says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz:

        This are just guys on my radar. I only own Acuna and K. Ruiz
        I love when I discover a new player, like I did with Gabriel Arias and Sherten Apostel.

        My two latest are 1B Mason Martin and 2B Esteury Ruiz.

        Can you find me a couple NL lefties like Luzardo in 95+ range?

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Jose: I’ve covered Ruiz a couple times. Martin not to bad. Sherten Apostel is a dude though. That was a nice pluck by you.

        • Milldood says:
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          @Jose: Those types of arms don’t grow on trees. Usually have to pray and bet on projection with HS LHP…Luzardo is the exception which is why he went so high in the draft even after TJS. Check out Nick Fanti and Bailey Falter in the phillies system…

          • Ralph Lifshitz

            Ralph Lifshitz says:
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            @Milldood: Good names!

            • Milldood says:
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              @Ralph Lifshitz: Thanks! I’m luckily close enough to Lakewood to catch a lot of these guys. Phillies seemingly send everyone through Lakewood.

  5. Randy says:
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    Ralph, I love the podcast, now my favorite since the Walking Dead sucks now and the podcasts that cover the show aren’t as interesting.

    What are your thoughts on Chance Sisco? Can he be a top 12 catcher? He seems to have unique skills for the position, good contact skills with high OBP and 15-20 HR pop.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Randy: Thanks Walking Dead! Hahaha that show lost me after season 1. Admittedly I’m not a Sci-Fi fan.

      He could be a top 12 catcher, maybe the power shows up a little more in the bigs. He can hit, but he doesn’t get me excited. No guarantee he sticks behind the plate.

      • Randy says:
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        Thanks for the advice! Keep up the great work..your prospect advice is my go-to!

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Randy: thanks!

  6. Anodyne says:
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    Hey Ralph, who would you rather have in dynasty, Rougned Odor or Carlos Carrasco?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Anodyne: If it’s 5×5 it’s close, but I would go Carrasco.

      • Anodyne says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: Thanks, that’s helpful!

  7. Tweak says:
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    Nice find in Luzardo. As much as people make fun of Beane these days, he still pulls off some interesting deals for guys he really likes. Luzardo is a great example of this. I’m still watching that breaking ball wondering how anyone is going to see it if he hides it behind his head like that.

    So, Ralph, who do you think (outside of Atlanta) has the most interesting pile of minor league arms? Oakland? Milwaukee? The Metropolitans?

    The Brew Crew gets my vote: Hader and Woodruff just up, Suter, Bickford, Perrin, Ponce, Burnes, Williams (if okay after TJ), Peralta, Yamamoto, Wilkerson.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Tweak: His changeup is even better! Go checkout the video Logenhagen filmed of him and watch the last pitch in the video.

      San Diego, they rival the Braves in some ways. Baez, Quantrill, Espinoza, Gore, Morejon, etc.

      Love that system, but those guys aren’t as high end. Those 5 names are studs!

      • Tweak says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: Fair enough, the Friars must’ve slipped my mind. Preller is doing some work out that way!

        Brought up the Brewers because their collection of arms fits my style, which is passable Ks with good control. I’m a sucker for pitchers like Jon Perrin, Joe Musgrove, TJ Zeuch, Spencer Adams.

  8. Old School Brother says:
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    I agree with Ralph, The Jesus Lizard is a great band

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Old School Brother: great band , think my Dad has Goat.

  9. Joke says:
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    Great write up Ralph! Hes my favorite pitching prospect. Just another one of the reasons you are an amazing prospect evaluator as I feel like most places are still asleep on this guy.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Joke: Thank you sir!

  10. mr_jray says:
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    when do you draft him in a minor league draft? is a third round pick to soon or late?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @mr_jray: Depends how many minor leaguers are available. If it’s a 12 team with say 120 minors owned, then early third seems appropriate.

      • mr_jray says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: It is a 15 team dynasty league. me have a 20 player minor league roster. The Mlb and first year draft are combined. I have the 2nd pick and and extra pick in the third

  11. Shane Whited says:
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    How does he rate compared to Honeywell, All are, and Soroko?

    • Shane Whited says:
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      Allard

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Shane Whited: He’s behind them in terms of ranking at the moment (all have been successful in AA or higher). I would say he has more upside that Soroka, and Allard too, and is probably equal to Honeywell’s ace ceiling, but well behind Honeywell’s mid-rotation floor.

      I personally believe Brent Honeywell will win a Cy Young one day.

      • jschwab says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: I agree 100% on Honeywell and a Cy Young someday.

        And thanks for the heads up on Lazardo. Now I know who my 3rd round pick will be, unless some jacka$$ beats me to him.

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