Jesus Luzardo should have exhausted his prospect eligibility around last April, but a shoulder injury suffered during spring training derailed his chances of making an impact for Fantasy in 2019. That has done little to dim his star, in prospect or Fantasy circles, especially after a brief, but dominant, turn as a reliever late in the season for the Athletics that showed us how good the stuff really is.
Numbers to Know
- Date of Birth: 9/30/1997
- Height: 6'0"
- Weight: 209 lb.
- Prospect Ranks: No. 9 at Baseball America, No. 12 at MLB Pipeline, No. 9 at Baseball Prospectus
- Scott White's Rank: No. 3 Fantasy prospect
- 2019: (MilB) 43.0 IP, 57 K, 8 BB, 2.51 ERA, 1.023 WHIP; (MLB) 12.0 IP, 16 K, 3 BB, 1.50 ERA, 0.667 WHIP
- Career: 195.2 IP, 234 K, 43 BB, 2.53 ERA, 1.037
Known Injury History
Tommy John surgery after high school, shoulder/lat injuries in 2019
He's a lefty with three present plus pitches, and we could just leave it there, but let's dive into the details. Luzardo was able to dial his fastball up into the 98-99 mph range and generated a 26.7% whiff rate on the four seamer working out of the bullpen for the A's last season, which tells you what kind of life he has on the fastball. And that might not even be the best pitch, as his breaking ball was unhittable and his changeup looked terrific, too. He can manipulate the breaking ball to be either a tighter, harder slider or a bigger curveball, but both can generate swings and misses, and the changeup has helped him avoid any platoon issues in the minors. Given how dominant he's been at every turn, there isn't much doubt Luzardo will be an effective major-leaguer at this point.
The question is whether Luzardo can hold up to a starter's workload. He has thrown fewer than 200 innings in four years since being drafted, with a season high of 109.1. However, it's not just a season total issue — he's also never thrown more than six innings in a start and has topped 90 pitches just once. He's a bit on the smaller side, and the injury history suggests a role in the bullpen could be in his future down the road. He figures to be dominant out of the bullpen if that does happen, but it would be a significant blow to his Fantasy appeal.
"If he can hold up as a starter, he has a higher pure ceiling than teammate A.J. Puk, with better secondaries and probably better present command. But he just hasn't shown a track record of durability or health, even going back to high school, to instill confidence that he can take the ball 30 times." – Keith Law, The Athletic
Precocious, slightly undersized lefty with multiple plus pitches and a lengthy history of arm injuries? Is that Julio Urias' music? Urias has proven he can get batters out at the major-league level, especially out of the bullpen, but 2020 is going to be hist first test as a full-time starter at this level. Both have tons of potential, and both have plenty of risk. If you're looking for a comparison to what a fully-realized version of Luzardo could look like, a pure ceiling projection might look something like a sub-prime Johan Santana, or maybe present-day Patrick Corbin.
Fantasy Bottom Line
Look, all young pitchers come with risks. To a certain extent, you're wishing on Luzardo a little bit more than most, but in an era where only a handful of pitchers make it to 200 innings in a given year anyways, would it be the worst thing in the world if Luzardo gave you 160 ace-caliber innings? For 2020, it's hard to see him doing much more than that (pro-rated to a 162-game season), though that would still have a ton of value. The biggest question moving beyond that is whether he can put the early-career injuries behind him, like Stephen Strasburg, or if it derails his career. I'm willing to bet on the talent.
So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda's huge breakout last season, and find out.