What the Oakland Athletics have in their current projected rotation does not resemble a team trying to continue their success on a 95-win season. Their number one starter is recent trade acquisition and projected one-win pitcher Mike Fiers. Following him in the rotation is free agent signing Marco Estrada, who is coming off a 5.64 ERA and 5.44 FIP season. The oft-injured Brett Anderson is their number three. Rounding out the back of the rotation is the inconsistent Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt.
The A’s rotation is projected for a cumulative 7.9 fWAR, good for 23rd in all of baseball. The only contending team below them is the Brewers, in addition to the ugly ring of the Giants, Rangers, Royals, Marlins, Orioles, and White Sox. Mike Fiers is projected to be the worst number one starter in baseball. Not great.
Looking at with their starting with, there is little upside and potential for a lot to go wrong. It could even by the culprit for what dooms them this season. Luckily though, they have one of the better pitching prospects in all of baseball to help mitigate these issues. Jesus Luzardo is likely to start the season in triple-A, but his performance in Spring Training has caught the eyes of many. It seems like a forgone conclusion that baseball’s #12 prospect will make his major league debut in 2019.
Jesus Luzardo, 95mph Fastball, Pitching with Emotion (pounding glove) and K Strut. ✝️ pic.twitter.com/8VKOPhtXhK— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 11, 2019
Even before he was making his good impression this spring (9.2 IP, 0.93 ERA, 15 SO, 4 BB), Luzardo’s name was making rounds in baseball circles because of his dominance in the minor leagues at such a young age. A high school arm out of Florida drafted in the third round of the 2016 draft by the Nationals, he was traded in a deal that sent him to the A’s for Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle. The 2018 season was the one that busted him onto the scene though, pitching across the levels of high-A, double-A, and triple-A with much success.
Starting his age-20 season in high-A, it only took him three games to get promoted.
- 4/5/2018: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO
- 4/11/2018: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 10 SO
- 4/17/2018: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO
Double-A wasn’t a big problem for him either, as across 16 starts he recorded a 2.29 ERA and 2.89 FIP in 78 2⁄3 innings, striking out 86 and walking 18. Here were his ranks among 147 double-A pitchers with at least 70 innings last year. All the more impressive once you consider he was the second youngest pitcher out of this group.
- ERA: 5th
- FIP: 6th
- xFIP: 10th
- K-BB%: 8th
- GB%: 56th
- IFFB%: 7th
- SwStr%: 7th
Getting outs didn’t come with much difficulty, as Luzardo had to rely little on his defense. Not one pitcher at the Double-A level last season pitched as many innings as him with a higher K-rate and IFFB-rate. This explains the low .268 BABIP he allowed and you could almost figure this could get better pitching in Oakland with a better defense behind him.
It seems unlikely that Luzardo will be with the A’s during the early part of the season (he was already left off their Japan roster), raising questions as to...why? ZiPS projects Luzardo to be worth 1.8 wins, higher than any pitcher on the A’s staff, all while having the 21st lowest inning projection.
Projected 10 most valuable pitchers on the A’s
We saw a plethora of rookie pitchers pitch well during last season, such as Walker Buehler, Shane Bieber, Brad Keller, Jack Flaherty, Shohei Ohtani, and Dereck Rodriguez. Wouldn’t be a surprise at all if Jesus Luzardo is the next.