Athletics

Athletics

Heading into the 2019 season, the A's have several talented prospects on the brink of making an impact at the major league level. Here are five names to keep an eye on next season:

Jesús Luzardo

Luzardo has a legitimate shot to open the season in the A's starting rotation. The 21-year-old phenom is ranked as the top left-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline.

Luzardo began last season at Class A Stockton, where he struck out 25 batters in just 14 2/3 innings, allowing two runs. He was just as dominant at Double-A Midland, posting a 2.29 ERA and 0.97 WHIP with 86 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings.

Luzardo features a mid-90s fastball that can reach the high 90s, along with a plus changeup and curveball, and he can command all three pitches on both sides of the plate. It's not a matter of if Luzardo makes his major league debut next season. It's a matter of when.

A.J. Puk

MLB Pipeline ranks Puk as the No. 5 left-handed pitcher in baseball. The tall 23-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in April and will miss the beginning of the 2019 season, but he figures to be a factor in the rotation when he returns.

Puk went just 6-10 with a 4.03 ERA in 2017 between Stockton and MIdland, but he struck out 184 batters in 125 innings for a ridiculous rate of 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Before his injury in 2018, he pitched well in spring training, going 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA.

 

At 6-foot-7, Puk features a dominant fastball and slider, as well as an improving curveball and changeup. His control should continue to improve as he gets older, putting him on track to become a top-notch starting pitcher for the A's.

Sean Murphy

Murphy figures to be Oakland's catcher of the future, but that doesn't mean he won't get a shot at some point in 2019. The 24-year-old is ranked as the A's No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline, and fourth-best catching prospect in baseball.

A right-handed batter, Murphy slashed .288/.358/.498 with eight home runs and 43 RBI in 68 games with Double-A Stockton last season. He also has the tools to become an elite defensive catcher at the major league level.

Murphy figures to start 2019 in Triple-A, where he played just three games last season, but don't be surprised to see him called up at some point during the season, even if it's not until September.

Jorge Mateo

MLB Pipeline rates Mateo as the A's seventh-best prospect. The 23-year-old shortstop spent last season in Triple-A, where he slashed .230/.280/.353 with three home runs, 45 RBI, and 25 stolen bases. The previous year at Double-A Midland, Mateo slashed .292/.333/.518 with four homers, 20 RBI, and 13 steals in 30 games.

Mateo has elite speed, which allowed him to lead the minors with 82 stolen bases in 2015. He has outstanding range at shortstop and also has spent time at second base and center field.

Even if the A's bring back both Jed Lowrie and Marcus Semien, Mateo could get a shot later in the season when rosters expand. At the very least, he could provide a great option as a pinch-runner.

Sheldon Neuse

Neuse is ranked as Oakland's 10th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. The 23-year-old can play third base and shortstop, and slashed .263/.304/.357 with five home runs and 55 RBI in Triple-A last season. Neuse showed more power in spring training last season, slashing .310/.375/.621 with five homers in just 58 at-bats.

Of course, the A's already are set at third base with Matt Chapman, but Neuse could provide a nice power option off the bench. Don't be surprised to see him called up sometime after the All-Star break.