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Oakland A’s 2018 Community Prospect List #6: Jesus Luzardo puts surgery in the rear-view mirror

The teenager got his pro career started last summer after Tommy John recovery.

Jesus Lizard!
Photo by Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

After falling short in a close vote for the fifth spot, pitcher Jesus Luzardo joins our Community Prospect List at No. 6. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. A.J. Puk, LHP (+62%)
  2. Franklin Barreto, SS (+56%)
  3. Jorge Mateo, SS (+22%)
  4. Dustin Fowler, OF (+24%)
  5. Sean Murphy, C (+0%)
  6. Jesus Luzardo, LHP (+37%)

We’ve already placed two members of the trade return from last summer’s Sonny Gray deal, in Mateo and Fowler. But Jesus Luzardo comes from a different 2017 trade, the one that sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Nationals.

The Sonny swap brought in an exciting amount of talent, but Doo/Mad wasn’t far off. In addition to immediately replacing one of those departed relievers with Blake Treinen (currently Oakland’s closer), and picking up a strong hitting prospect in Sheldon Neuse (our next nomination; see below), the deal also netted a high-ceiling young pitcher in Luzardo.

The lefty doesn’t come without flaws. Most notably, he already has a Tommy John surgery on his resume. Even worse, he incurred that injury at a particularly young age (18), which raises an extra red flag for his long-term future. Due to that setback he didn’t get on a professional mound until last June, and to this point he’s only thrown a few dozen innings and topped out at short-season Low-A ball. There’s a lot of risk tied up in this profile.

However, there’s also plenty of reward to hope for. Luzardo made a brilliant return from surgery, making a mockery of Rookie Ball and then dominating at Low-A Vermont. He didn’t just record outs but matched them with airtight peripherals, including a strong K/BB rate. The Lake Monsters made the playoffs and he won his start there too, with five scoreless innings of one-hit ball. His velocity was back to pre-injury level, and clearly his command was there too.

Even if he moves quickly up the system, it’ll be a while before we see Luzardo in green and gold. But he’s one more in the A’s growing collection of top-notch youngsters, which is exactly what you want to see from your rebuilding club. As a bonus, if he reaches MLB then he’ll be the first Peruvian-born player ever to do so. All glory to the Jesus Lizard!

Here is the process:

  • Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of “Vote: Player Name” for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official “Vote” comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group.
  • Choose your ONE favorite by Rec’ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one. The player who receives the most Rec’s earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee.
  • In the comments, below the official voting, the community will nominate players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a response to my comment. The format for your comment should be “Nomination: Player Name”.
  • After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec’ing his comment. The player with the most Rec’s earns the nomination.
  • If a prospect is traded, his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space. If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should rank.

* * *

The new nominee is Sheldon Neuse. He was acquired in the same trade as Luzardo, and upon his arrival in the A’s organization he went absolute ham. He decimated the High-A Cal League for a few weeks, then moved up to Double-A and kept hitting, then smashed through the playoffs to lead Midland to another championship, and finished up by standing out as one of the top bats in the Arizona Fall League. He’ll need to back it all up with a larger sample of success this year and also figure out his future defensive home, but dang, what an introduction.

Scouting grades: MLB Pipeline
Scouting reports: John Sickels
Hitter average rates: 100 wRC+, 8.0% BB, 20.0% Ks

Sheldon Neuse, 3B

Expected level: Double-A | Age 23

2017 stats (A+/AA): 169 PAs, 176 wRC+, 7 HR, 8.9% BB, 27.2% Ks, .510 BABIP
2017 stats (AFL): 99 PAs, .315/.364/.554, 5 HR, 7.1% BB, 18.2% Ks, .338 BABIP

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 45 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50

I tend to fall in love with this type of player; tools don’t stand out, best physical tool is his throwing arm, raw power is average but he knows how to get to it and has hit at every level; not a butcher at shortstop though range is limited, fits better at third base in long run. ETA late 2018.

* * *

Austin Beck, OF

Expected level: Single-A | Age 19

2017 stats (RK): 174 PAs, 77 wRC+, 2 HR, 7 SB, 9.8% BB, 29.3% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

Broad tools stand out with 60 raw power, 60 speed, 60 arm; results did not match reputation in rookie ball due to contact problems and there are concerns about ability to hit for average and get on base at higher levels; high-upside certainly but risk profile seems a bit higher to me than commonly realized, thus a touch of conservatism with the grade. ETA 2022.

* * *

James Kaprielian, RHP

Expected level: High-A | Age 24

2017 stats: Missed entire season due to Tommy John surgery

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50

When healthy he can hit 99 while mixing in three strong secondary pitches and throwing strikes, but he’s been hampered with physical problems in pro ball; I love a healthy Kaprielian but we need to make sure he doesn’t turn into Kyle Zimmer and the grade reflects that uncertainty; monitor spring reports closely, if he’s healthy and maintains his stuff he’s at least a B+. ETA 2019.

* * *

Lazaro Armenteros, OF

Expected level: Single-A | Age 19

2017 stats (RK): 181 PAs, 131 wRC+, 4 HR, 10 SB, 8.8% BB, 26.5% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

60 speed, 50 or 55 raw power, needs polish with swing mechanics but draws positive reviews for bat speed and overall athleticism; glove needs work as well but could be OK in center with more experience; long way off but I like the upside and have a good intuitive feeling on this one. ETA 2021.

* * *

Grant Holmes, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 22

2017 stats (AA): 4.49 ERA, 148⅓ ip, 150 Ks, 61 BB, 15 HR, 4.02 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50

Relies on low-to-mid-90s power sinker, mixed with power curveball; change-up and overall command remain inconsistent and results don’t always seem to match the stuff; on the right day he looks like a number three or even number two starter but consistency issues could make him more of a four; it would be interesting to see how he would look in the bullpen although I haven’t heard of any moves in that direction. ETA 2019.

* * *

Vote in the comments below for your favorite of the five by Rec’ing his “Vote: (Player Name)” comment, and post your nomination(s) as well!