Sheldon Neuse

Jesús Luzardo: Everything you need to know on A's top pitcher prospect

Jesús Luzardo: Everything you need to know on A's top pitcher prospect

Who is A’s pitcher Jesús Luzardo?

A possible top-15 fantasy pitcher in 2020? Sure.

An AL Rookie of the Year candidate? Definitely.

But the 22-year-old lefty is so much more than that. 

Before the A’s

The Washington Nationals drafted the talented pitcher in the third round in 2016 out of Stoneman Douglas High School. Luzardo underwent Tommy John surgery around the time of the draft, but the Nats are known to take a chance on a guy despite the surgery.

Not a bad decision at all. 

The A's acquired Luzardo, Sheldon Neuse and Blake Treinen in 2017 from the Nationals in a trade for Ryan Madson and fan-favorite Sean Doolittle. Since then, he has been considered one of the best prospects in baseball.

With the A’s

During his stint last season with Triple-A Las Vegas, he boasted a 3.19 ERA with 1.19 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 31 innings while pitching in a hitter’s haven in the PCL.

In 12 innings of relief after he was promoted to the A’s in 2019, Luzardo tallied a 1.50 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 12 innings. His spring training numbers would make you blush also, but I don’t want you filling my comments with the nonsense that “those numbers don’t count.”

Eh … I’ll do it anyway. 

In 8 1/3 innings of Cactus League play this year, he struck out 13 batters. See? That was worth bringing up. 

Oh, and he has only allowed six hits since his MLB debut after facing 58 batters in the regular season and playoffs.

His background

Luzardo is the first Peruvian-born player to play in Major League Baseball. He's also Venezuelan. 

Not a contact guy

On the mound, Luzardo is usually wearing his prescription Oakley glasses while he pitches and decides to forego contact lenses.

“My glasses are kind of like a routine for me,” he told NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil. “When I pitch or throw without them, it’s kind of just weird. It’s more of a comfort thing.”

Hey, don’t mess with what works.

[RELATED: A's position battles heading into Summer Camp]

Now for the important stuff ... 

Luzardo’s (very proud) mom Monica, says that believe it or not, he’s very shy, but he has a big heart and is a hard worker.

I could see that. 

“His favorite Disney movie when he was young was ‘Mulan,’ ” she said. He also loves to fish and also is an excellent baker. His specialty? Tres Leches Cake, which is a Venezuelan dessert. 

Bob Melvin confident in A's young depth heading into Winter Meetings

Bob Melvin confident in A's young depth heading into Winter Meetings

The A's are at the MLB Winter Meetings with eyes on providing manager Bob Melvin with even more options to fill out his lineup, but it's not as if he doesn't have plenty to choose from already.

Whether it's the starting rotation, the infield or the outfield, Oakland possesses great depth at many positions, and a lot of that depth is young.

Both Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk made their long-awaited debuts for the A's last season, and Melvin told NBC Sports California that both are expected to be in the starting rotation when the season commences. Just how many players are a member of that rotation remains to be seen, however.

"I think anything is possible for us," Melvin said of the rotation. "We like to get a little bit creative. I think ideally guys like to be in a five-man rotation, it allows them to prepare. But whether it's the piggybacking-type thing, whether it's a six-man rotation for a period of time ... anything creative I think we would potentially look at, but I think as we go into the season right now, we'd probably look at a five-man rotation to start."

One would imagine that both Sean Manaea and Mike Fiers have been earmarked for two more spots in the starting rotation, as might Frankie Montas. Melvin also mentioned players like Chris Bassitt, Daulton Jeffries and James Kaprielian as additional pitching options.

That depth extends to the infield, as well. The A's were so confident in their second-base options that they felt comfortable trading the versatile Jurickson Profar to the Padres. Between Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo, Sheldon Neuse and even Chad Pinder, Oakland has several bodies to consider pairing with shortstop Marcus Semien in the middle of the infield. The trouble is, each of them bats right-handed, as does the vast majority of the A's current lineup. That doesn't seem to concern Melvin too much, though.

"I think we're always looking potentially for another left-handed bat in a little bit of a right-handed dominant lineup," Melvin explained, "but we're comfortable with the guys we have right now and we feel like we have multiple options."

The A's manager went on to admit that, in a perfect world, Oakland would be able to add a few left-handers, particularly considering the abundance of dominant right-handed starters in the AL West. The Angels reportedly are pursuing Gerrit Cole, and he could be the best of the bunch. The A's are aware of what their competitors are doing at the Winter Meetings, but they have reason to be confident.

[RELATED: Why Yankees offering Cole $245M is good for Giants, A's]

"We keep an eye on the teams in our division," Melvin said. "We keep our eyes on every team in the league, but at the end of the day, it's about what we can do to enhance our club and make our club better. You're talking about a club that's won 97 games two years in a row, so we feel pretty good about where we're at."

The A's already possess a deep roster, but perhaps with an addition or two, a deep playoff run could be in store.

A's top prospect ranking: Why Sheldon Neuse comes in at No. 4 overall


A's top prospect ranking: Why Sheldon Neuse comes in at No. 4 overall

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine the top 10 prospects in the A's organization. For each player, we will provide a scouting report and a realistic timetable for reaching the major leagues, as well as what he needs to do to stay there.

No. 4 - Sheldon Neuse, 3B/2B

A third baseman by trade, Neuse has quickly and seamlessly transformed into a solid second baseman. Of course, third base in Oakland will be occupied for the foreseeable future by some guy named Matt Chapman.

Originally a second-round draft pick of the Nationals, Neuse was the under-the-radar prospect in the trade that brought Jesús Luzardo and Blake Treinen to the A's in exchange for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.

But Neuse, 24, exploded for 27 home runs, 31 RBI, and 102 RBI in 126 games for Triple-A Las Vegas this season, slashing .317/.389/.550. That earned him a late-season call-up to Oakland, where he hit .250/.294/.305 with three doubles and seven RBI in 56 at-bats.

Perhaps most impressive was Neuse's defensive play at second base, despite only seeing 16 games there in Triple-A. He quickly adapted, making a handful of highlight-reel plays while not committing a single error in 20 games at the position.

Neuse will have another opportunity to earn significant playing time at second base next year, with Jurickson Profar uncertain to return to Oakland. Youngsters Jorge Mateo and Franklin Barreto could also push for the starting job, but Neuse will likely enter 2020 with a slight edge.

[RELATED: A's prospect Deichmann shows power potential in Fall League]

Neuse already has displayed his power-hitting ability at Triple-A. The key will be carrying that over to major league competition, where he failed to homer in his 54 at-bats last season.

Now with a month of experience under his belt, however, Neuse should be able to relax at the plate and let his natural strength do the work.