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Oakland A’s prospect watch: Jesus Luzardo first member of High-A Stockton rotation to move up

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The lefty phenom is promoted to Double-A Midland and debuts tonight.

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Meghan Camino | Stockton Ports

The High-A Stockton Ports’ starting rotation is hot to begin the 2018 season, and the only questions were which pitcher would be first to move up to Double-A and when. We now have answers, as 20-year-old lefty phenom Jesus Luzardo has been promoted to Midland, first reported by Melissa Lockard of The Athletic. Luzardo will make his debut start on Tuesday, adds Martin Gallegos of the East Bay Times.

Luzardo only made three starts for Stockton, throwing a total of 14⅔ innings. He struck out 25-of-55 batters faced, allowing just 11 to reach base, and along the way he showed off his mid/upper-90s fastball.

Luzardo, A+: 1.23 ERA, 14⅔ ip, 25 Ks, 5 BB, 6 hits, 1.46 FIP

This is a particularly aggressive assignment by the A’s, as noted by Lockard.

In her recent article at The Athletic, Lockard mentions the likelihood of an innings cap for the Tommy John surgery survivor, giving the A’s incentive to move him up as fast as possible and use some of those innings in the upper minors.

Luzardo joins Norge Ruiz as two legit prospects in Midland’s rotation, with the rest made up of filler and deep sleepers.

Other Stockton starters

As for the remaining group in Stockton, the crown jewels of the rotation are Parker Dunshee and Brian Howard. Dunshee finally gave up runs in his third start of the year, ending his regular season scoreless streak at just under 50 innings dating back to last summer. Even still, his overall stat line remains nothing short of dominant, and meanwhile Howard has struck out 19-of-41 batters over his last two games.

On the downside, lefty Zack Erwin finally had a stinker in his last start, allowing five runs in four innings. He and Matt Milburn have both been good two-of-three times out. Jake Bray, still stretching out from relief work to starting, has seen his usually massive strikeout rate cut down sharply; he has nearly a walk per K, but has so far prevented actual runs from scoring.

Dunshee: 1.13 ERA, 16 ip, 21 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR, 1.60 FIP
Howard: 1.76 ERA, 15⅓ ip, 24 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR, 2.35 FIP
Erwin: 3.18 ERA, 17 ip, 16 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR, 2.67 FIP
Milburn: 3.31 ERA, 16⅓ ip, 15 Ks, 4 BB, 2 HR, 4.52 FIP
Bray: 0.79 ERA, 11⅓ ip, 8 Ks, 7 BB, 0 HR, 4.56 FIP

In the bullpen, the standout name has been Miguel Romero. The 24-year-old has received a lot of prospect hype over the last year due to his excellent raw stuff, and now he’s backing it up on the field after struggling greatly last year during the regular season and Arizona Fall League. Of particular note is that he’s faced 38 batters and hasn’t walked any of them, though he did hit one with a pitch. Angel Duno has also posted impressive numbers after moving to a relief role at age 24.

Romero: 1.64 ERA, 11 ip, 10 Ks, 0 BB, 2 HR, 6 hits, 4.67 FIP
Duno: 0.77 ERA, 11⅔ ip, 15 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR, 6 hits, 1.79 FIP

Who will be the next to move up?

Pitching rehab

Updates on a couple of key A’s pitching prospects:

And from the players themselves:


Quiet lineup

Injury news via Lockard

While the Ports pitchers lead the California League in run prevention, their hitters are also last in scoring. The top bat had belonged to 3B Will Toffey (2017, 4th round), but he dislocated his left shoulder on Friday and will miss at least a few weeks. The anchor of the lineup was supposed to be OF Greg Deichmann (2017, 2nd round), but he hasn’t played since Thursday due to a wrist injury and the team announced on Tuesday that he’s been placed on the DL.

In their absence, only three other hitters have managed above-average batting lines. SS Kevin Merrell (2017, 1st round) has hit for a high average and legged out a few triples, but he hasn’t yet used his speed to steal bases (2-of-4) and his strikeouts are a bit high for a guy who needs to make lots of contact. Catcher Jonah Heim (Wendle trade) has shown some power and on-base ability, and has earned himself some time as the DH to get his bat in the lineup when he’s not behind the plate.

Finally, infielder Edwin Diaz (2013 draft) is looking much better in his second tour of High-A after briefly flopping last summer; he’s still only 22 years old. Speedy outfielder Dairon Blanco, making his debut this year out of Cuba, hasn’t hit much but has controlled the strike zone well and gotten on base — and once there, he’s stolen three bases without being caught.

Heim: .250/.348/.417, 111 wRC+, 2 HR, 11.6% BB, 18.8% Ks
Merrell: .320/.354/.427, 109 wRC+, 0 HR, 5.1% BB, 25.3% Ks
Diaz: .234/.362/.383, 108 wRC+, 2 HR, 16.9% BB, 25.4% Ks
Blanco: .259/.362/.310, 92 wRC+, 0 HR, 13.0% BB, 15.9% Ks

Toffey: .281/.465/.344, 141 wRC+, 0 HR, 25.0% BB, 20.5% Ks
Deichmann: .200/.328/.340, 87 wRC+, 14.8% BB, 32.8% Ks

Here’s a neat shot of 2B Nate Mondou (87 wRC+) playing some defense:

Roster moves

Stockton announced several more roster moves on Tuesday.

A note on those not yet mentioned:

  • Goldstein was acquired for Dillon Overton prior to 2017, and had just come up to replace Toffey.
  • Bolt opened 6-for-45 in Midland, for a .133 average and 11 wRC+.
  • Mercedes is org filler who appears to be plugging holes where needed at each level (also AAA and AA already this year).
  • Gilbert (2016, 8th round) is a lefty reliever who got hit hard in High-A last year (19⅔ ip, 6.86 ERA, 5.18 FIP). He’s from the part of the draft where the A’s often find interesting pitching sleepers.

Tuesday’s games

Nashville is off today.

Double-A Midland: 5:05 p.m., Jesus Luzardo vs. Corpus Christi
High-A Stockton: 7:05 p.m., TBA vs. Rancho Cucamonga
Single-A Beloit: 4:30 p.m., Poche’ vs. Peoria

Not yet clear who will start for Stockton in Luzardo’s place. Poche’ makes just his second start of the year thanks to Beloit’s weather problems.

Link to box scores