Jesus Luzardo

A's top prospect Jesús Luzardo lives up to hype in sparking MLB debut

A's top prospect Jesús Luzardo lives up to hype in sparking MLB debut

Bob Melvin certainly didn't do Jesús Luzardo any favors.

The A's manager brought in his 21-year-old left-hander for his major league debut and asked him to protect a three-run lead for three full innings, against arguably the best lineup in all of baseball. Luzardo passed the test with flying colors.

Oakland's top prospect retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, allowing just a solo home run, as the A's knocked off the first-place Houston Astros, 5-3.

"I was just anxious to get on the mound," Luzardo told reporters after the game. "A little nervous, but after the first pitch it kind of all went away and I just zoned in."

Luzardo recorded two strikeouts without issuing a walk, setting down the last seven Astros he faced. He seamlessly mixed his 97 mph fastball with a devastating slider and changeup, throwing 22 of his 36 pitches for strikes.

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"It's really impressive," said starting pitcher Brett Anderson, who earned his career-high 12th win of the season. "The command, the poise, for how young he is, the overall stuff is phenomenal. Anytime you can have a lefty throw 98 that throws strikes, it's always a plus."  

Added Melvin: "It's three-plus pitches. He can pitch in any fashion that he wants. He can pitch with his fastball ahead. He can pitch behind in the count. He's always had the ability to do that."

Luzardo may have battled a few nerves early on, but the moment was clearly not too big for him. He attacked All-Star hitters with the confidence of a veteran.

"I grew up watching some of them," Luzardo said of the Astros. "I took the same approach that I would in any other game. I looked at the scouting reports down in the bullpen and kind of prepared myself for what was to come and I'm glad that the results turned out well."

Luzardo had the added pressure of performing in front of approximately 30 friends and family members. But he was thrilled they were able to share this night with him.

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"It was crazy," Luzardo told NBC Sports California. "It was a great time here. I'm glad that I could get a lot of my family and friends out here. I'm happy they could make it out. It was everything I expected it to be."

The question now is how the A's choose to use Luzardo moving forward. While he is destined to be a top-flight starting pitcher throughout his career, Oakland already has six solid starters, along with a shaky bullpen. Wednesday night provided a glimpse of the type of late-inning weapon Luzardo could be down the stretch.

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"We'll still talk about it," Melvin said. "We still want to try to get his pitch count up. I mean, he is a starter by trade. All of our starters are pitching pretty well right now. Maybe the next time out, the same type of fashion. We'll get together at some point in time tomorrow and put a plan together for him."

However the A's choose to use Luzardo, he showed Wednesday night that he is the real deal.

Re-ranking A's top prospects following conclusion of minor league season

Re-ranking A's top prospects following conclusion of minor league season

With the minor league baseball season coming to an end, at least for the A's affiliates, we figured this would be the perfect time to look back on the past year and reexamine Oakland's top prospects.

The A's farm system features a great deal of young talent, some of which has already helped the major league club. We've also seen pleasant surprises among older players like Seth Brown, who has caught fire since making his big-league debut.

But for now, let's rank the top five prospects under the age of 25 in the A's system:

1. Jesús Luzardo

Despite battling injuries this season, Luzardo remains the top prospect in the Oakland organization. The hard-throwing left-hander finally earned his first major league call-up on Monday after a strong showing in Triple-A Las Vegas recently.

Luzardo, 21, went 1-1 with a 3.19 ERA in seven starts, notching 34 strikeouts against eight walks in 31 innings. Overall this season, he went 2-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 11 outings.

Luzardo has excellent command of his high-90s fastball, as well as his curveball and changeup. He mixes all three pitches incredibly well for someone his age and has the stuff and composure to be an ace for years to come.

2. A.J. Puk

Puk has already shown his ability at the major league level, allowing just one run in five innings over his last three outings, with six strikeouts. The 6-foot-7 left-hander is coming off Tommy John surgery but hasn't had any setbacks, and his fastball velocity is still close to 100 mph.

Puk, 24, has notched 38 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings this season between the majors and minors. In addition to his dominant fastball, he has a nasty slider and also mixes in a curveball and changeup. That four-pitch mix should prove effective for a long time. 

Puk and Luzardo figure to be a dominant one-two starting pitching tandem for years to come, but for now, the two left-handers will work out of the bullpen.

3. Sean Murphy

Murphy also recently made his highly-anticipated major league debut. The 24-year-old catcher launched his first home run in his second career at-bat, continuing a power surge that began in Triple-A this season, where Murphy hit 10 homers in just 31 games.

Murphy has always been a terrific defensive catcher, but now his offense is starting to catch up. He slashed .308/.386/.625 in Triple-A this season, despite battling a couple of injuries.

Now fully healthy, Murphy looks poised to be a mainstay behind the plate in Oakland.

4. Sheldon Neuse 

Neuse put up a huge season in Triple-A Las Vegas, slashing .317/.389/.550 with 27 home runs and 102 RBI in 126 games. Since joining the A's, the 24-year-old has struggled a bit, going 3-for-21 with a double and two RBI, but the power potential is undeniable.

Third base is Neuse's natural position, but with Matt Chapman occupying the hot corner, Neuse has moved over to second recently. He's picked up the position quickly, recording 10 putouts, nine assists, and two double plays without an error since joining Oakland.

Neuse has an opportunity to take hold of second base next season and beyond. His natural hitting ability, particularly his power, makes him an exciting prospect moving forward.

[RELATED: Manaea reminds A's fans of his dominance in win vs. Tigers]

5. Jorge Mateo

Mateo has always had elite speed, but this season in Triple-A, he took a major step forward with his bat. The 24-year-old middle infielder slashed .289/.330/.504 with 19 home runs, 29 doubles, 14 triples, 78 RBI, and 24 stolen bases in 119 games.

Mateo made the vast majority of his starts at shortstop, but he also played some second base. He has tremendous range and a very strong arm, which allows him to play the shortstop position at a high level.

Mateo figures to join the A's at some point in September, as he's already on the 40-man roster. If nothing else, he could serve as an excellent pinch-runner. But moving forward, Oakland expects Mateo to be a key contributor at the top of the lineup.

A's call up No. 1 prospect Jesus Luzardo as bullpen arm for stretch run

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AP

A's call up No. 1 prospect Jesus Luzardo as bullpen arm for stretch run

Jesús Luzardo's highly-anticipated major league debut appears to be on the horizon.

The A's will call up their top prospect from Triple-A Las Vegas on Monday. MLB.com's Martin Gallegos was the first to report the move. The A's confirmed the promotion Monday.

Luzardo, 21, is ranked as the No. 3 left-handed pitching prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline and the No. 18 overall prospect. He has put together back-to-back excellent starts for Las Vegas, combining to allow just two runs in 11 2/3 innings with 17 strikeouts and two walks. In seven total starts for Las Vegas this year, he went 1-1 with a 3.19 ERA.

[RELATED: Why Semien deserves MVP consideration for terrific A's season]

Luzardo looked poised to make the A's opening day roster this season, but he suffered a strained left rotator cuff late in spring training. The hard-throwing southpaw has dealt with a few setbacks during his recovery but appears to be fully healthy now.

Gallegos reported Luzardo will join the team Monday in Houston. He is not on the A's 40-man roster, so the club will have to make a corresponding move.