Athletics

Bob Melvin praises A's prospect Jesus Luzardo in first spring training bullpen

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Bob Melvin praises A's prospect Jesus Luzardo in first spring training bullpen

At only 21 years old, Jesus Luzardo has a chance to make the A's Opening Day starting rotation. After his first spring training bullpen this year, manager Bob Melvin was already impressed. 

"He knows there's a spotlight on him," Melvin told reporters in Arizona on Tuesday. "What really stands out -- he's got an upper 90s heater, but it's his breaking stuff that kind of sets him apart in who he is right now, both changeup and breaking ball." 

All eyes will be on Luzardo in spring training this year. He's the A's top prospect, and the top left-handed pitcher in all of the minor leagues. His offspeed pitches, as Melvin noted, are nothing to scoff at, too. 

On the 20/80 scouting scale, MLB Pipeline rates Luzardo's fastball as his top pitch with a 65 grade. Not far behind, though, are his changeup (60) and curveball (55). 

[RELATED: A's weigh out pros, cons of calling up No. 1 prospect Jesús Luzardo]

Luzardo pitched at three levels last season, making it to Triple-A for his final four starts. He finished 2018 with a 10-5 record and 2.88 ERA, striking out 129 batters in 109.1 innings pitched. 

The A's current rotation is a mixed bag full of mystery. With an impressive showing in the desert, the left-handed Luzardo could emerge as a serious candidate to crack the team's starting five at the start of the season.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred confident in A's Howard Terminal site

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred confident in A's Howard Terminal site

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred expressed his confidence is the A's Howard Terminal site for a future ballpark on Tuesday, despite a recent report from the San Francisco Chronicle on hazardous chemicals and a costly cleanup. 

“I am aware of some of the issues that have been raised with respect to the site,” Manfred said to reporters during a news conference at the Glendale Civic Center. “I’m optimistic that we’re going to find a way that the A’s and government officials in Oakland will find a way to work through those issues to everyone’s satisfaction." 

Manfred praised the A's ownership and front office for their creativity in landing at Howard Terminal, too. 

“I give (owner) John Fisher and (president) Dave Kaval really high marks for the level of effort, creativity and commitment they have put into the project in terms of trying to find a site in Oakland that’s workable. They deserve a ton of credit.”

The A's have long been looking for a new ballpark. It seems every year, we hear rumblings of either a new location in Oakland, or a possible relocation outside of the Bay Area. Manfred made one thing clear -- he wants the team right here in Oakland. 

[PHOTOS: Howard Terminal ballpark and Coliseum site redevelopment renderings

“I think it’s important for us to stay in Oakland,” he said. “Most fundamentally because of our commitment to communities. But, you know, Oakland is a major-league market. We should have a club there.”

The A's moved from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968, and have remained at the Coliseum -- with its many names -- ever since. 

Why A's crowded outfield means there could be opportunity for trade

Why A's crowded outfield means there could be opportunity for trade

After last week's signing of 29-year-old Robbie Grossman, the A's find themselves with eight outfielders battling for three spots.

Stephen Piscotty and Ramón Laureano should have right and center field locked down, which leaves six players -- Grossman, Nick Martini, Mark Canha, Chad Pinder, Franklin Barreto, and Dustin Fowler -- vying for playing time in left.

While a team can never have too much depth, the A's still have other areas of need -- namely starting pitching. So it's worth asking, could a trade be in the works?

Barreto and Fowler probably carry the most value in a potential trade due to their youth and upside. Barreto, 22, has long been considered one of Oakland's top prospects, and despite limited playing time at the Major League level, he has shown flashes of his tremendous natural ability at the plate.

Fowler, 24, struggled in his first season with the A's last year, but performed extremely well in Triple-A, slashing.341/.364/.520 in 55 games. His short swing should eventually allow him to hit for a high average, and he has surprising natural power, not to mention plus speed.

Pinder and Canha also have some trade value. Pinder's versatility makes him an attractive option for any team. The 26-year-old can play any position besides pitcher and catcher (and he claims he can do those too). Pinder also has outstanding power, as he showed when he belted home runs of 460 feet and 448 feet in 2017.

Canha, 30, destroys left-handed pitching. Last season, he hit .282/.337/.604 with 13 home runs in 149 at-bats against southpaws. That makes him an excellent platoon option for any club.

[RELATED: Grading the A's offseason with spring training underway]

Martini and Grossman probably have the least trade value, but that should be just fine with A's fans. Martini, 28, hit .296 last season with an incredible .397 on-base percentage. Grossman wasn't far behind with a .273 batting average and .367 OBP. They are both excellent options in left field for Oakland.

Of course, the A's could elect to keep all eight outfielders to start the season and see how it plays out on the field. But don't be surprised if they move one or two of them in the next few months, especially if it means shoring up the starting rotation.