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Oakland A’s prospect watch: Jesus Luzardo starts All-Star Futures Game

The lefty phenom threw two innings in the midsummer showcase.

Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The MLB All-Star Game is approaching on Tuesday, but before that comes the minor league showcase known as the Futures Game. One side is made up of prospects from the U.S., and they play against the World Team consisting of international youngsters. Every club sends one or two minor leaguers to participate.

This summer the Oakland A’s were set to send two players to the game, but catcher Sean Murphy missed out due to injury — last week he was diagnosed with a broken hamate in his hand, which might end his season entirely. That left one representative for the A’s, in the form of pitching phenom Jesus Luzardo.

The lefty entered the season at No. 6 on our Community Prospect List, but at this point he’s almost certainly the top prospect in the system. He’s taken a massive step forward at age 20, by not only reaching Double-A but thriving there. MLB Pipeline has him ranked No. 20 nationally, and Baseball Prospectus put him all the way up at No. 13 in their recent midseason update while calling him “probably the most polished pitcher in the minor leagues.”

All of that hype earned Luzardo the starting nod for the World Team on Sunday. He wasn’t perfect, allowing a run and a few hits in his two innings, but he impressed nonetheless. John Shea of the S.F. Chronicle was on-hand for the action and reported that Luzardo hit 97 mph on the stadium gun, with an extra note about his “dazzling changeup, which he loves to throw.” Shea also described him as a “quick worker who challenged every hitter.” To complete the description of his arsenal, Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball clocked his change at 85-87 mph and his breaking ball at 81-83, while Melissa Lockard of The Athletic pointed out the “nasty late movement and a few of those plus changeups.”

Luzardo’s first inning, against some names you may recognize:

  • Groundout (Jo Adell, Angels)
  • Flyout (Bo Bichette, Blue Jays)
  • Double (Brendan Rodgers, Rockies)
  • RBI single (Nathaniel Lowe, Rays)

The inning ended when Lowe was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double, so Luzardo got bailed out before the U.S. lineup had a chance to extend the rally. On to the 2nd:

  • Strikeout (Keston Hiura, Brewers)
  • Single (Alex Kirilloff, Twins)
  • Strikeout (Danny Jansen, Blue Jays)
  • Flyout (Kyle Lewis, Mariners)

Click here for full box score and play-by-play

All three of the hits were classified as line drives. On the bright side, though, the two sides eventually combined for eight homers, so relatively speaking he put in one of the better pitching performances of the day simply by keeping the ball in the yard.

Congrats to Luzardo, not only for making his way to this big stage but for succeeding once there!

Mondou, Barrera promoted

As long as we’re talking about Luzardo, let’s take a quick moment to update the rest of the Double-A Midland squad. The big news was the promotion of two standout position players from High-A Stockton.

Outfielder Luis Barrera had been hot for a while, with a .910 OPS over his last 28 games (.333/.410/.500, 150 wRC+) and steady production for another month before that. Lockard is a big fan of the 22-year-old, and she ranked him well within the Top 30 on her preseason A’s prospect list at Oakland Clubhouse. If he shows well in the upper minors the rest of the year, then you have to figure he’d have a shot at next winter’s CPL.

Barrera, 2018 A+: .284/.354/.415, 111 wRC+, 3 HR, 9.1% BB, 17.9% Ks

Infielder Nate Mondou has been even hotter than Barrera lately, with a .947 OPS over that same span since June 13 (.320/.413/.534, 158 wRC+). The 23-year-old second baseman (2016 draft, 13th round) is particularly adept at making contact, with a 7.0% swinging-strike rate that ranks fourth-lowest among among 71 hitters in the Cal League (min. 200 PAs). In Stockton he was finding a bit of power too, and it’ll be interesting to see how much of that he can maintain at a higher level and in the Texas League’s tougher hitting environment.

Mondou, 2018 A+: .291/.361/.448, 121 wRC+, 8 HR, 8.4% BB, 14.8% Ks

Mondou made his RockHounds debut on Sunday, going 0-for-2 with a HBP.

To make room on Midland’s roster for these two, infielder Edwin Diaz and outfielder Brett Siddall were sent back to Stockton. Both had impressed in previous stints in High-A but were struggling mightily in Double-A — Siddall was barely over the Mendoza Line in over 200 PAs (49 wRC+), and Diaz was 11-for-74 with a .392 OPS (1 wRC+).

Rest of roster

First, the hitting side (numbers updated to include Sunday’s game):

White, IF: .327/.417/.500, 149 wRC+, 8 HR, 12.9% BB, 20.8% Ks
Ramirez, OF: .274/.358/.420, 110 wRC+, 6 HR, 10.3% BB, 25.8% Ks
Martin, SS: .282/.350/.401, 102 wRC+, 1 HR, 8.5% BB, 18.6% Ks
Bolt, OF: .214/.298/.317, 67 wRC+, 1 HR, 9.9% BB, 28.2% Ks
Heim, C: 3-for-12, 1 double, 3 BB, 3 Ks, 1 sac fly

With Murphy out, the Hounds’ remaining star is Eli White, who is as hot as ever and has also stolen 14 bases (in 19 tries). Tyler Ramirez has slowed down but is more treading water than fully slumping, with a 110 wRC+ in 16 games since the league’s All-Star break. However, Richie Martin is in an outright skid, going 10-for-64 since the break (.158 average, 12 wRC+).

Among more recent additions, Skye Bolt has a 97 wRC+ in 24 games since moving back up to Midland. Jonah Heim is off to a decent start in his first taste of Double-A and has reached base in all four games he’s played.

And the pitching:

Luzardo: 2.54 ERA, 63⅔ ip, 74 Ks, 15 BB, 4 HR, 2.87 FIP
Dunshee: 3.33 ERA, 27 ip, 30 Ks, 2 BB, 4 HR, 3.72 FIP
Howard: 3.80 ERA, 21⅓ ip, 23 Ks, 7 BB, 2 HR, 3.76 FIP
Shore: 5.23 ERA, 51⅔ ip, 38 Ks, 15 BB, 3 HR, 3.85 FIP

That’s four straight strong starts for Parker Dunshee, though Brian Howard got knocked around on Sunday (4⅓ ip, 3 runs, 4 Ks, 4 BB, 1 HR). Logan Shore only has one quality start in nine tries so far. In addition, Norge Ruiz is back in Midland after a brief (and decent) stint in Triple-A.