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Oakland A’s call up top prospect Jesus Luzardo

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One of the best pitching prospects in the entire sport

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s called up top prospect Jesus Luzardo on Monday, the team announced. To make room on the 40-man roster, outfield prospect Luis Barrera was also called up and then placed on the 60-day injured list, due to season-ending shoulder surgery. The A’s also called up pitcher Daniel Mengden to join their expanded September active roster.

This is huge news for the A’s. Luzardo is easily their top prospect, and one of the best youngsters in the entire sport. Entering the season he was a consensus Top 50 national prospect, and at most sources he was Top 20, making him one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. The left-hander is the very definition of an impact talent, and he has a good chance to be a star in the majors.

Unfortunately, the 2019 season has been a struggle for Luzardo, as he was limited to just 43 innings due to a pair of injuries. He was in the running to make the A’s rotation out of spring training, but instead he began the year on the injured list due a shoulder strain. He returned to action in June, but made only five appearances before an unrelated lat strain landed him back on the shelf. That cost him another month, until he returned in early August.

Despite those setbacks, though, Luzardo has remained excellent when he’s been able to take the mound. He made a mockery of his lower-minors rehab, striking out half the batters he faced in High-A, and he continued to put up great numbers in seven starts for Triple-A Las Vegas. He’s only been bad once all year, upon his return to Triple-A in August, but he then followed that up with several more strong outings.

Luzardo, AAA: 3.19 ERA, 31 ip, 34 Ks, 8 BB, 3 HR, 3.64 FIP

In addition to those stats, he also started on Friday in the Triple-A playoffs. In that game he tossed 5⅔ innings and allowed one run on seven hits and two walks, with the run coming on a solo homer, and he added seven strikeouts along the way. Las Vegas won that game, though they ended up losing the series.

The 21-year-old still hasn’t even thrown 200 innings in the pros but has earned every bit of the hype that now surrounds him. He had Tommy John surgery before being drafted out of high school by the Nationals in 2016, and had barely debuted in ‘17 before being traded to Oakland in a package (along with Blake Treinen and fellow recent call-up Sheldon Neuse) for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. In 2018 he made a meteoric rise up the system, dominating both High-A and Double-A and putting himself on the cusp of the majors this past spring.

While the long-term plan is for Luzardo to be a starting pitcher, the A’s will most likely use him out of the bullpen for now, reports insider Martin Gallegos. Oakland has six starters who are all pitching well (Mike Fiers, Tanner Roark, Homer Bailey, Chris Bassitt, Brett Anderson, and now the recently returned Sean Manaea), so the rotation is more than taken care of. The relief corps, on the other hand, has struggled to hold leads all season and could benefit from adding a new, dynamic arm.

In terms of stuff, Luzardo is electric, with three above-average pitches and great control and command to help them all play up even further. His fastball has been clocked as high as 99 mph this year, and that was as a starter as opposed to the relief role he’ll be in this month. His changeup is considered one of the best in the entire minors, and both offerings receive great scouting grades in the 60-65 range (on the 20-to-80 scale). His curveball is also considered a plus. Here’s a full, glowing rundown from MLB prospect guru Jonathan Mayo, plus more praise from Melissa Lockard of The Athletic, who calls him an “advanced thinker on the mound.”

With the promotion of Luzardo, the A’s now have all three of their blue-chip prospects in the majors. They also called up fellow lefty A.J. Puk in late August, and catcher Sean Murphy at the beginning of September, both of whom are Top 100 national names (and probably Top 50). Puk had a shaky debut out of the bullpen but has settled down his last couple times out, while Murphy burst onto the scene in his own debut by hitting a homer and catching a shutout.

Another of the A’s 10 best prospects, Neuse, is also up in the majors getting some reps at second base, while sleeper outfielder Seth Brown has been on fire to start his career (small-sample .417 average, 189 wRC+). In other words, the youth movement is now in full force to supplement the team’s established core, with hopes of helping the A’s secure a Wild Card for the second straight year — they currently hold the second spot, with the Rays one game ahead in the top spot and the Indians lurking 1.5 games behind Oakland.

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Here’s the updated 40-man roster. Players in italics are still in the minors, not on the active MLB roster. Those with a second dash before their name (--) have not yet debuted in MLB, and those with asterisks** are on the 10-day injured list. Remember that at least one more 40-man spot will be needed in the final week of September, when pitcher Frankie Montas gets activated from his PED suspension.

Oakland A's 40-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Mike Fiers (R)
Tanner Roark (R)
Brett Anderson (L)
Homer Bailey (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Sean Manaea (L)
--Grant Holmes (R)
--James Kaprielian (R)


Relievers

Liam Hendriks (R)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Jake Diekman (L)
Joakim Soria (R)
Blake Treinen (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)
A.J. Puk (L)
Jesus Luzardo (L)
Paul Blackburn (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)
-Jharel Cotton (R)
Catchers

Chris Herrmann (L)
Josh Phegley (R)
Sean Murphy (R)

Infielders

Matt Olson (L)
Jurickson Profar (S)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Sheldon Neuse (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
--Jorge Mateo (R)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Robbie Grossman (S)
Chad Pinder (R)
Seth Brown (L)
-Stephen Piscotty (R)**
-Skye Bolt (S)
-Dustin Fowler (L)

10-day IL: OF Stephen Piscotty (ankle)

60-day IL: RHP Daniel Gossett (TJS), OF Luis Barrera (shoulder)

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In one final interesting note, when Luzardo makes his debut appearance, he’ll become the first player born in Peru to play in the majors. Here’s a video from the team to help get to know him!