Fantasy Baseball

Fake Scouting Jesus Luzardo, Dynasty Baseball Asset

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I recently made a huge life-changing transfer from the Monroe area in Louisiana to the Northwest Arkansas region. Although my reasons were mostly related to career opportunities and family/friends, the sports scene is just a completely different animal here in the Fayetteville area. Of course, there’s the Arkansas Razorbacks who have an elite collegiate baseball team and decent teams in other sports. However, there was another opportunity for casual sports-watching that I totally forgot about.

Ever since I have started writing for the site in 2016, I haven’t lived in a city with a minor league baseball team nearby. That changes now that I can attend games for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, the Double-A affiliate for the Kansas City Royals. Now, the Royals’ farm system isn’t ideal – it’s ranked in the bottom five on almost every website out there. However, the cool thing about baseball is that you play other teams! Therefore, I am able to plan ahead and figure out which systems will be visiting the park.

When I saw that the Midland RockHounds (Oakland Athletics) were on the schedule, I immediately thought of Jesus Luzardo. Brought over in a (terrible) trade by the Nationals in 2017, Luzardo has risen through the ranks quickly and efficiently. I had read articles on multiple sites (including this one from Ralph Lifshitz at Razzball) praising his repertoire. I knew I wanted to see this guy firsthand and, since it was a three-game series, I knew I had a great chance.

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Sure enough, he was slated to start on Friday and I got a notebook and headed out there. Unfortunately, it being Memorial Day weekend, I didn’t have anybody join me. Yep, I was the lame nerd who drew in his notebook and used his phone for some videos. I owned it though and actually had a couple of people asking me about what I do and the potential for Luzardo moving forward. Neat stuff!

Anyway, I have some findings to share with the fantasy community. My phone sucks and I don’t have a ton of storage for videos on it, but I was able to get one of each pitch and plenty of notes to go with them. Hopefully, I can attend a couple of more games and get some more live action of future fantasy studs!

Fake Scouting Jesus Luzardo, Dynasty Baseball Asset

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Background

Setting

You see the picture of Arvest Ballpark at the top – it’s a beautiful arena for a Double-A park. It had rained heavily for a few hours during the day and they got the field in pristine condition by the 7 PM start time. There’s was a slight breeze from right to left, but not enough to make a difference. As a lot of organizations try to do, it did remind me of Kauffman Stadium, the home of the Royals, as far as the dimensions and aesthetics of the backdrop.

Yeah, I’m the sucker who enjoys buying shirts from all the stadiums I attend. It’s been a tradition of mine for years and I need a less expensive one. Maybe stickers or something? It’s too late in the game now. I purchased an IPA from our local Arkansas Core Brewery and checked out my $15 seats behind home plate. (Another reason to love minor league baseball – cheap seats!)

Opposing Lineup

Let’s get this out of the way – it’s not the most intimidating lineup in the Texas League. There’s only two players with an OPS north of 0.800 and none of them are very patient hitters with walk-rates hovering around 6-7%. However, what this club does do well is not strike out. By the numbers, they are very aggressive and take rips early in counts.

Gametime

Oh man, I could tell from the warmup tosses before his first inning that I was in for a treat. He was lobbing fastballs in at 93 and had this very calm look to him. This isn’t your normal 20-year-old pitcher – he has a very mature aura about his pitching style.

Overview

He breezed through the first three innings with just two batters reaching base. I was impressed by how quickly he works between pitches. Luzardo pitches with a purpose and doesn’t allow hitters to get comfortable in the box. Additionally, he fields his position really well just in case anyone was wondering. As mentioned before, since the Naturals are so aggressive at the plate, he was locating pitches really well and getting weak contact regularly.

Unfortunately, Luzardo did run into some trouble in the fourth inning. After allowing a solo homer with one out,  he walked a guy and then allowed a bunt single on a play that the third baseman should’ve made. With runners at first and second, he struck out the side despite a bad call on a stolen base at third. He then worked a clean fifth inning before getting pulled.

Aside: Before we get to the pitch mix, I want to apologize for my video quality. I will definitely fix this if I decide to do this again. MY BAD!

2-Seam Fastball

The heater was, well, just that. When you see ‘sits 94-96’ on scouting reports, sometimes it makes me skeptical. This is not one of those occasions. Luzardo was lighting up the radar and even hit 99 MPH in the first inning. As seen in the video, it’s a natural 95 MPH with the ability to ramp it up.

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While his fastball was electric, Luzardo definitely lacked control of it early on. He was certainly amped up in that first inning and was not spotting it where he wanted to at all. Once he realized how hard he was throwing it, he settled in over the next two innings and started locating it much better. This fastball was in the third inning and was indicative of where he ended up at the end of the game.

 Curveball

Excuse my language, but his curveball is so damn sexy. Now, he was working his breaking ball with pinpoint command on both sides of the plate. He had such good control of it that I believe he was manipulating the bend on it based on where he was in counts. For example, look at the video above on an empty count versus the video below on a 1-2 count to the same batter.

The curveball in the first video was 88 MPH while the second one registered at 85 MPH. He was toying with a couple of these righties with the pitch and it definitely gave me a couple of ‘ooooh’ faces.

I failed to get the curveball that got him out of that ugly fourth inning mentioned above, but it was to die for. This pitch along with the life of his fastball is definitely going to play up at tougher levels.

Changeup

While the changeup has a ton of potential, it was definitely off on this evening. It’s possible that, since he lacked his promised command on his fastball, the changeup followed suit. (AKA I could have caught it on an off-night.) But, yes, this pitch still needs some work. It sat around 83-85 MPH and definitely repeated the mechanics of the fastball. It did have plenty of run away from a righty though, which has me optimistic about its future.

Conclusion

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5.0142581

Look, I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m no expert. I’m learning the nuances of baseball scouting, but I’m not some MLB scouting veteran that is getting paid tons of money to do this. (In fact, I lost $40 in this venture. Well, $50 with the beer and a chicken tender basket.)

That said, there’s something special about Luzardo. It’s not just the repertoire and the arm, but the confidence and calm sense of purpose he has on the mound. This is a complete skill set that definitely translates into a top pitching prospect for fantasy leagues. I didn’t even see his best stuff and I came away really impressed with this outing. I wouldn’t expect him to be in Double-A much longer. I’m thinking he will be in Triple-A to start the 2019 season.

In the big picture, that pushes his potential call-up to July of 2019, which is amazing for a would-be 21-year-old. Depending on your dynasty league format, there’s not a ton of guys with this upside that will get the call between now and then. After Forrest Whitley and Michael Kopech, Luzardo would lead the next tier of pitching prospects for me.

Lagniappe

Lagniappe was a common French term used during my tenure in Louisiana to describe “something given as a bonus or extra gift” to folks. I will add a little bonus section here for lesser-known players that caught my eye.

Tyler Ramirez, OF, Midland RockHounds

This is why I love actually attending games rather than relying on prospect lists to find dynasty sleepers.

Ramirez was extremely impressive at the plate with four hits. The biggest hit was a two-run triple in the third inning off of southpaw starter Foster Griffin that broke the game wide open. With great speed and a natural lefty swing, Ramirez is someone I’m keeping an eye on in the A’s system.

Looking at his statistics, they make me even more excited honestly. In just over 100 games with Double-A in 2017 to now, he’s running a 0.843 OPS with a 134 wRC+. He’s even consistently running a BB-rate above 10% at every level. One for the watch list, folks!

Eli White, SS, Midland RockHounds

Similarly, White had himself a four-hit performance with a huge triple in the third inning. Sound like deja vu? Good, because these are very similar players. While he may not have as good of a batter’s eye as Ramirez, he does have an aptitude to steal bases. He’s already at 8 SB in 44 games this year and his speed certainly showed on that triple.

Embed from Getty Images

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Elier Hernandez, OF, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

The solo homer off of Luzardo belonged to Hernandez, who has a smooth swing from the right side. He had a few good at-bats in the game and also had a slick diving catch in right field. After a short, effective 2017 stint for the Naturals (138 wRC+), he has struggled largely here in 2018 according to the stats (86 wRC+). Perhaps his three-hit performance on Friday is a sign of things to come.

Nicky Lopez, 2B/SS, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

In a fantasy landscape where middle infielders are scarce, perhaps Lopez could work his way into the Royals’ lineup by 2019. He’s killing it for the Naturals this year with a 0.339/0.417/0.414 slash line in 46 games. He didn’t do anything stat-worthy in this game, but you can tell he has a natural athleticism that translates to the majors. Long-term, he could be a utility guy off the bench with some stolen base upside.

About Tyler Thompson

Follow me on Twitter at @therealwody. For all the latest news and best advice out there, like us on Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.

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