Before the start of spring training, A's general manager David Forst said he would weigh two factors in determining whether top prospect Jesús Luzardo would start the season in the big leagues.
"The decision will be whether he's one of our best five guys versus if it's better for him long term to get some Triple-A time," Forst said. "If he's good enough, there's no reason not to have him in the rotation."
After a phenomenal spring, the answer is clear. Luzardo is good enough. And then some.
The 21-year-old left-hander allowed only one earned run on six hits in 9 2/3 innings, striking out 15. He isn't just one of the A's five best starters — he's arguably their best.
"In an ideal world, I would like to be up as soon as the team needs me, as soon as possible," Luzardo told NBC Sports California in January. "But at the end of the day, I'm not the one who makes that decision, and whatever happens, I'm going to be OK with it. That's part of God's plan."
MLB Pipeline ranks Luzardo as the No. 2 pitching prospect in all of baseball, and the No. 1 lefty. Last season, he went 10-5 with a 2.88 ERA last season between Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A, recording 129 strikeouts in 109 1/3 innings.
With Daniel Mengden and Paul Blackburn optioned to Triple-A, it appears the competition for the No. 5 starter job is down to Luzardo, Chris Bassitt and Aaron Brooks. Bassitt, 30, still has a minor league option remaining. Brooks, 28, does not.
Still, if the A's are basing their decision solely on merit, it's a no-brainer. Brooks struggled this spring, allowing six earned runs on 10 hits in nine innings. Bassitt surrendered six earned runs on 13 hits in 10 innings.
Luzardo has proven he's ready for the big leagues. There's no reason he should have to wait any longer.