Thursday night, the Washington Nationals were eliminated in an exhilarating game five that stretched well into the wee hours of Friday morning.
The Nationals priority at the trade deadline was to give a struggling bullpen some new toys to play with. Along with Brandon Kintzler from Minnesota (for lefty prospect Tyler Watson), General Manager Mike Rizzo also snagged a pair of relievers from the Oakland Athletics.
For two prospects and struggling MLB relief pitcher Blake Treinen, the Nats received veterans Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to reinforce the bullpen.
While the Treinen aspect of the deal was a nice revelation for the A’s (his ERA in Washington was 5.73, 2.13 with 13 saves in Oakland), the deal was made for the prospects Jesus Luzardo and Sheldon Neuse. The bonus from the 29-year old Treinen only sweetens the pot on a deal that Billy Beane and company have to be feeling very good about.
Due to a rather top heavy farm system (topped by outfielders Victor Robles and Juan Soto), the Nationals surrendered their second and third round picks from the 2016 draft to make the trade.
The Peruvian Luzardo grew up in Florida and was selected in the third round. He just recently turned 20 years old (on September 30th) and the early returns are extremely promising.
He made his professional debut this past June in the Rookie League and had a 1.42 ERA, .235 BAA with a striking 28:1 K:BB ratio in Rookie ball between the two organizations.
Oakland moved him to Low-A Vermont in August and he made five starts there. His first Low-A start yielded two runs, the only time he allowed more than a run all year, but starts two through five saw him surrender just a pair of runs in 15 innings. He continued his superb K:BB rate with 17 punch outs to just three free passes.
Neuse, who will turn 23 in December, is a north Texas native and was unsuccessfully first picked by his hometown Rangers in the 38th round back in 2013. A good call indeed, as he would be picked in the second round out of the University of Oklahoma in 2016.
By reaching Double-A Midland and playing games in Double-A Frisco in 2017, his unfinished baseball journey has regardless come full circle. After a solid if not overwhelming first taste in 2016, 2017 has been a mighty fine year for the second year pro.
He slashed .291/.349/.469 in 77 games for Low-A Hagerstown before the trade, adding 19 doubles and 12 stolen bases while manning the left side of the infield, appearing at third base 33 times and shortstop eight.
Neuse has defensive flexibility and could be a future utility player at the very least. He’s yet to venture elsewhere in the minors —except for one Midland start at first base— but can also field second and the outfield corners.
After the deadline deal, the A’s moved him to High-A and he rewarded their faith with some intense production. In his first nine games for Stockton, he had a pair of three-hit games and a four-hit night as well.
The only possible knock upon his move from the Nationals system to the A’s is he stopped running. In all, he hit at a rate that would render his time in High-A short-lived.
He ended up playing just 22 games for the Ports, hauling in 22 hits over 83 at-bats, good for a hit every 2.7 times he registered at the plate. He slugged .675, homering seven times and doubling 22 more.
Upon moving to Midland, he instantly became a fixture in the RockHounds back-to-back-to-back-to-back championship squad. He only played 18 regular season games for the Hounds (.373/.427/.433) but if he starts 2018 as hot as he did 2017, he’s not long at all for Triple-A Nashville.
He earned an invite to the 2017 Arizona Fall League and has continued his breakout year through three games. He’s already gone yard twice in 11 at-bats, including a grand slam.
There will be a lot of eyes on Neuse going forward, as well as Luzardo and Treinen could be a full-time closer for the big league club next season.