A's expect top prospect Jesus Luzardo to 'be a factor' in 2019

A's expect top prospect Jesus Luzardo to 'be a factor' in 2019

OAKLAND — Jesús Luzardo was so dominant in his first full professional season, the A's had no choice but to keep promoting him.

Coming off Tommy John surgery, the then 20-year-old left-hander started the year at Class A Stockton. In three starts, he struck out 25 batters in 14 2/3 innings, allowing just two runs.

The A's quickly moved Luzardo to Double-A Midland, where he continued to overwhelm opposing batters, notching 86 punch-outs in 78 2/3 innings with a 2.29 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. He finished the season with four starts at Triple-A Nashville, where he faced his first struggles, allowing 13 runs in 16 innings, but still striking out 18.

Now 21, Luzardo is ranked as the number two pitching prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline behind Astros RHP Forrest Whitley. He will almost definitely make his Major League debut sometime next season and might even end up on the Opening Day roster.

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"I think Jesús is going to come into Spring Training and be a factor,” said A's general manager David Forst. “I don't think we have to hide that. He had an incredible year. He's our top prospect. He's probably one of, if not the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game. So I expect he'll come into Spring Training and be a factor for us."

Added executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane: "He was a factor last year in Spring Training when he was like 20 years old."

He certainly was. Luzardo pitched six scoreless innings this past spring, allowing six hits with six strikeouts and a walk, and that was without a full season of professional baseball under his belt. Next year, at the age of 21, he figures to make a strong push to crack Oakland's starting rotation.

The A's acquired Luzardo from the Nationals in 2017 as part of the Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson trade, a deal that also brought them All-Star closer Blake Treinen. Luzardo was born in Lima, Peru, but most of his family is from Venezuela. He moved to the United States as an infant and grew up in South Florida.

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The Nationals selected Luzardo out of high school in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft -- he would have gone much higher had he not torn his ulnar collateral ligament, requiring Tommy John surgery in March of 2016.

Clearly, Luzardo came back at full strength last season. His fastball lived in the mid 90s, touching the high 90s at times, with excellent command on both sides of the plate. He also has an excellent changeup and solid curveball.

Luzardo is on the fast track to becoming a top of the rotation pitcher in Oakland for many years to come. The only question is how soon he gets his opportunity.

A's Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks deserving of MLB All-Team honors


A's Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks deserving of MLB All-Team honors

Major League Baseball has initiated the first-ever All-MLB Team. This was put forth for fans to vote on their favorite players from the 2019 season's entirety.

This is a bit like the All-Star selections only that, in this case, it's not in the middle of the season, and with these, there are both first and second teams. Also, this team will not be broken up by leagues and players were previously nominated -- pretty cool, right?

I voted for my 2019 All-MLB Team and here are my results:

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso put on a show at the plate this season and during the Home Run Derby. Sure, we dig the long ball, but we also appreciate a guy who shows his emotions when he does something great on the field, like setting a rookie home-run record with 53 dingers this season.

The middle-infielders as of late have become these gems filled with power, which is a characteristic we didn't see in the earlier eras of the game. 

For second base, Houston Astros star José Altuve proved once again why he is a constant force to be reckoned with. The six-time All-Star finished his 2019 campaign slashing .298/.353/.550 with 31 home runs and 74 RBI in 124 games. 

Marcus Semien was the vote at the shortstop position. While there were plenty that deserved the honors (Jorge Polanco and Xander Bogaerts should not go unmentioned), Semien was such a fascinating player this season.

Sure, there's a slight bias over here, but imagine having someone only get better as the season went on. Semien started in all 162 games this season and showed no signs of tiring, finishing with 33 homers and doubling last season's total. He was also third in AL MVP voting behind Mike Trout and Alex Bregman. 

Semien didn't receive All-Star honors this season, which is a shame. He deserves something after the show he put on.

Speaking of Bregman ... I voted for him at third base, the position that was the toughest to select across the roster.

He, Matt Chapman and Nolan Arenado each put up a phenomenal season and reminded you just why it's called the hot corner.

For Bregman, he was sensational across the board in each hitting category, finishing 2019 with a .296 average, 41 homers and a 1.015 OPS. Arenado matched Bregman's long-ball numbers with 41, but ya know -- Coors. 

And that energy is contagious.

Outfielders were easy to vote for.

Trout, Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich. I really hope you guys won't argue with me on those.

The starting pitchers, for the most part, hosted arms from the final two teams still playing October baseball. Justin Verlander earned his second Cy Young Award, posting a 2.58 ERA with 300 strikeouts in 223 innings and an MLB-leading 0.80 WHIP.


Verlander's former teammate Gerrit Cole was behind him in Cy Young voting, leading the AL with a 2.50 ERA and MLB with 326 strikeouts and 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

I also voted for Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and once again, I hope there are no arguments there. If there is, I have plenty of photos of them drenched in champagne celebrating a World Series championship to back me up.

Former A and current Cincinnati Red Sonny Gray didn't reach his 2015 heights, but he dropped his ERA drastically from his 2018 campaign, boasting a 2.87 ERA with the Redlegs. His season deserved to be recognized.

From the bullpen, A's Liam Hendriks got a vote because he not only put up the numbers but switched to closer role responsibilities and did it smoothly and masterfully.

He finished his 2019 All-Star season with a 1.80 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 85 innings with a 0.97 WHIP.

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How'd I do? Let me know.

The winners for first and second-team honors will be announced at this year's Winter Meetings in San Diego. 

A's, free-agent reliever Jake Diekman agree to two-year contract


A's, free-agent reliever Jake Diekman agree to two-year contract

The A's are bringing back an important piece to their bullpen one day after non-tendering their former closer

The A's and left-handed reliever Jake Diekman have agreed to a two-year contract with a club option, the team announced on Tuesday. 

ESPN's Jeff Passan first reported the news. Diekman reportedly will earn a guaranteed $7.5 million. 

The A's acquired the 32-year-old from the Royals on July 27 for two minor leaguers. Diekman went 1-1 with a 4.43 ERA in 28 appearances out of the bullpen for Oakland.

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Between the A's and Royals, he had a 4.65 ERA over in 76 games out of the bullpen. 

Diekman struck out 21 batters in 20 1/3 innings for the A's, but he also walked 16 batters.