Jesús Luzardo has been a long time coming in the eyes of A’s fans, who started watching the young prospect’s progress after he came to us in trade a couple years ago. Prospects don’t always pan out, but every once in a while you get a gem who takes on those expectations and obliterates them ... before his 22nd birthday.
The young ace has a multi-cultural background. He has the honor of being the first Peruvian-born player to reach the majors. His parents teased him growing up, saying if Luzardo was the first Peru-born Major Leaguer, he’d be in advertisements in his birth country.
However, Luzardo does not identify as Peruvian. In 1997, he was born in Lima, Peru, to his Venezuelan parents. A year later, the family packed up and moved to South Florida, where Luzardo began his baseball life.
He was drafted directly out of high school in Parkland, Florida by the Washington Nationals, despite a pretty big setback: Luzardo was scheduled for Tommy John surgery before he even saw graduation. Still a teenager, and he was already facing a life-altering experience. The Nationals chose to see Luzardo through his recovery, and he did not let them down. He got back in action, and made his professional debut on June 28th, 2017. His velocity on the day reportedly peaked at 98 mph.
On July 16th, the A’s traded Ryan Madson and fan favorite Sean Doolittle to the Nationals for Blake Treinen, Sheldon Neuse and Luzardo. Oakland was heading into the second half of a last-place 2017 season, and the loss of Doolittle was a hit to the gut on an emotional level. The pressure and expectations were on for the bunch of trade chips, not that it wasn’t already for Luzardo, who was ranked among the top prospects in baseball.
On February 14th, 2018, tragedy struck Luzardo’s alma mater, Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in the form of the deadliest high school shooting in US history. One of the victims was Luzardo’s former athletic director, Chris Hixon. Luzardo, 20 at the time, wanted to do his part and started a college scholarship program to honor the man who helped support his baseball dream.
According to the Mercury News, Luzardo was nearly at the school at the time of the shooting. With his family still living in Parkland, Luzardo would go back and practice with the high school baseball team. He was getting ready to head over when he received the jarring text to stay home, that a shooter was on campus.
Thankfully, Luzardo had something to occupy his mind. Baseball season was on the horizon. He started his spring with High-A Stockton, and by the first week of August, he was pitching with Triple-A Nashville. Across three levels of minor league ball, he put up a 2.88 ERA and 129 K’s with a 10-5 record. He was named to the Double-A Texas League mid- and post-season All Star teams, as well as being invited to the 2018 All-Star Futures Game.
Next stop, a starting spot with the A’s! Or ...
Entering 2019, the then-21-year-old lefty was ranked in the top 50 prospects in all of baseball, a majority of lists pointing him into the top 20. He seemed inches away from a spot on the A’s Opening Day roster when a rotator cuff strain in Spring Training jammed his progression. Luzardo persisted, returning to baseball on June 11th with Stockton and jumping to Triple-A Vegas two starts later. He only pitched three outings in Vegas when a lat strain pulled him from the mound again.
But he came back healthy once more, and finally got the call he’d been working for. The A’s were in the hunt for a Wild Card slot when, on September 9th, Luzardo’s contract was selected and he was promoted to the Big Leagues, just 21 days before his 22nd birthday. Talk about a present!
His biggest setbacks were not from his own failure, but forces outside his control shoving him back like ugly bullies, just as he seemed poised to break his next barrier. Luzardo proved his hype wasn’t all talk, taking on the pressure situations he was pushed into with the calm of a veteran pitcher ten years his senior. He put up 12 innings of work out of the bullpen, amassing 2 saves, 16 K’s and only giving up two runs and three walks.
An A’s roster with a designated spot for Luzardo in the rotation has been a long time coming, but with the sneak preview A’s fans got at the end of 2019, the hype train will keep rolling through the long offseason. Luzardo just turned 22 on September 30th, and with the skills he has now, he could have another whole lifetime of baseball left in him, and he’s all ours! There’s no stopping Luzardo now.