MLB, Oakland Athletics

Top prospects Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk are the A’s next dominant starters

The Oakland A’s top two pitching prospects are Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk. The two have a chance to be Oakland’s newest homegrown aces.

We can safely assume that, if healthy, both Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk will be in the Oakland A’s rotation whenever the 2020 MLB season starts.

Both Luzardo and Puk are unique kinds of talents, southpaws with nasty stuff. The two left-handers rank as the team’s No. 1 and No. 2 prospects, with Luzardo at the top, then Puk at second.

Once these young pitchers finally made it to the big leagues in 2019, they were sent to the bullpen for the stretch run. Now, we’ll see just how exciting their stuff is at the big league level. Appearing in the majors will help them get through this shared experience, especially with the ill-timed injury setbacks.

Luzardo’s injury history could be a cause of concern. The 22-year old was acquired from the Washington Nationals as part of a package in return for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. The A’s knew the lefty Luzardo was a key component to the acquisition. However, he was just returning to the mound in 2017 following Tommy John surgery. In 2019, Luzardo would also suffer a shoulder injury then a Grade 2 lateral strain.

For Puk, he doesn’t have a clean bill of health either. The 6’7 Puk fell into the laps of the A’s as the sixth overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. Puk made it to Double-A in his first full season, with an appearance in the Futures Game. He was on the cusp of making the 2018 Opening Day roster until that came to an abrupt halt. The promising prospect underwent Tommy John surgery that April, missing the first two months of the 2019 season due to the injury.

When they’re healthy together, they’re the two best up-and-coming southpaws in baseball.

Puk was the first of the two to be called upon to the Majors on August 21, 2019. Appearing in 10 games out of the bullpen, Puk put up good numbers, finishing 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA while striking out 13 batters. He did have some struggles with command, just the way most tall pitchers do. That could be a learning curve for the 25-year old, especially after returning from elbow surgery. When his command is in control, Puk’s two reliable pitches are his 90’s fastball and slider.

Luzardo only pitched 43 innings in the minors before making his MLB debut on September 11. Luzardo worked his way through the minor league system in 2018, becoming the first Peruvian-born player to reach The Show. Once he reached the Bay Area, Luzardo was but in the bullpen. From there, he put up just two runs on five hits, with 16 strikeouts and three walks.

In the A’s Wild Card Game defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays, Luzardo but up a brilliant performance. The hard-throwing pitcher threw three scoreless innings, allowing one hit with four strikeouts. His fastball reached 100 mph, while his slider did the rest of the work.

Luzardo and Puk don’t have much left to prove in the minors. Since becoming part of Oakland’s organization, the two have since become friends, even living together during spring training. They could lead a deep rotation in Oakland anchored by Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, and Mike Fiers. If they can continue to develop, as they should, the A’s could arguably have one of the strongest starting rotations around the league.

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