Updated: Aug 5, 2020
By: Nick Jebaily
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
Today is the day that fans of pitching have been waiting for, the day that the #12 prospect in the MLB pipeline, Jesús Luzardo takes the field for his first MLB start. Luzardo is an electrifying lefty who has been on many MLB fans’ radars since he made 6 impressive relief appearances in the 2019 season for the A’s. Through those outings, he threw 12 total innings without any decisions, 2 holds, and 2 saves in 2 save opportunities, only blemished by a homerun and 2 runs. Out of 46 batters faced, he retired all but 8, giving up just 5 hits and 3 walks, recording a 1.50 ERA and championing a .667 WHIP. I am expecting to see similar dominance in Luzardo’s first start on the bump as we have seen from him coming out of the bullpen.
For those who haven’t heard much of the young talent, Luzardo is a 22 year old Peruvian pitcher who made his first appearance on September 11th of last season. Jesús was drafted by the Nationals in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft out of Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School, and was traded to the Athletics as a part of the Sean Doolittle deal. He was two years into his minor league career when tragedy struck home. On the morning of February 14th, 2018 he was getting ready to go practice with his old High School team when head coach Todd Fitz-Gerald alerted him that there was an active shooter on campus. Luzardo recalls a feeling of ‘helplessness’ when trying to contact friends, previous classmates, and faculty, anxiously hoping for a text or callback. In July of 2018, 5 months after the tragic event, Luzardo participated in the MLB futures game. Prior to the game, the young Peruvian told USA Today that he was playing in honor of those who passed and others that were affected. “I’m glad to be here representing them.. I’m happy I grew up there.”
If you don’t love him already, you’ll love what he brings to the table. He throws a blazing fast 4-seam fastball to catch a breeze, and a strong sinker to force batters to whiff and hit ground balls. Since his debut last year, Luzardo’s fastball average velocity is second among all lefties in the league, coming in at 96.2 MPH, just .3 MPH slower than Gregory Soto(DET). Here is his first Major League Strikeout on a 97 MPH Fastball.
Still not convinced? The kid makes batters miss on 56.4% of swings on breaking balls and is tied for 7th best swing and miss rate throughout the league at 37.9%. Since mastering his slider last year, it has now become the go to in his arsenal, and the motion on it is crazy. He also throws a mean changeup that commands the bottom of the strike zone.
Since his 2019 debut Luzardo has recorded a 2.41 ERA on 11 hits, 5 ER, 23 SO, and a .911 WHIP. I am really looking forward to seeing him try to maintain those numbers as a starter. If this kid plays out like we all are hoping, it takes the Athletics from a top tier rotation to arguably one of the best pitching rotations in baseball. Sean Manaea is slated to start tomorrow and Mike Fiers for Thursday, so you can expect the Rangers to struggle to score runs throughout this series.
Tonight, if you decide to take my advice in watching this game, appreciate the pitcher rather than watching for offense and home runs. Watch for his command of the bottom of the strike zone, and appreciate how easily he makes batter miss on his slider. You might even enjoy it if you like watching absolute heaters blow by batters and paint corners.
In conclusion, slam Oakland in the first 5 innings tonight (-175).
The game starts at 9:10 tonight, and will only be on TV on NBC Sports CA, but check out reddit MLB Streams if you're not in the area ;)