Minor League Ball has been taking a position-by-position look at the prospects we expect to debut in 2019. Today we turn our attention to some left-handed pitching prospects.
Before we do, get caught up on the previous position breakdowns:
There will be dozens upon dozens of pitchers, both lefties and righties, that will make their Major League Baseball debut in 2019. So how can we narrow down this list? Let’s take a look at some of the lefties that should make their debuts as a starter that really excite us. This will be different from some other reports, in that a top prospect that pitch an inning or two or three as a reliever in a September call-up will qualify as a starter we’re excited to debut.
Let’s get to it.
Justus Sheffield, New York Yankees
Trade rumors are swirling around the Yankees and veteran starters, and you can bet that Sheffield’s name is in the mix. That doesn’t mean he will be traded, but doesn’t mean he won’t. Either way, Sheffield should make his debut as a starter in 2019 somewhere at the very least.
Sheffield got a late call-up after the Triple-A playoffs concluded and pitched 2.2 uninspired innings of relief. That doesn’t matter. He has a nice fastball that sits mid-90s and tops out around 98, and three big-league pitches all told. The slider and change are a bit inconsistent, as his command, leading to less than ideal walk rates throughout his career. That said, there is little left for him to accomplish in the minors. His days in the rotation are here.
Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics
While the A’s will be in no rush with their young lefty star, he may force his way into some late season starts if he continues to progress as he has the past couple of seasons.
The skinny on Luzardo is that he was drafted in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft despite needing Tommy John surgery, which should speak volumes to his potential. The Washington Nationals shipped him to the A’s to bolster their bullpen at MLB trade deadline in 2017 and the A’s have proceeded with caution.
Luzardo has not shown any caution to opposing hitters.
The recently-turned 21-year-old had a monster season, jumping from the California League to the PCL. His time in Double-A stands out, going 7-3 with a 2.29 ERA and an 86:16 K:BB ratio in 78.2 innings. He got dinged up a bit in Triple-A, but there is no denying he is a special prospect, arguably the best lefty prospect in the game. The A’s could very well sit on their star until 2020, but Luzardo may have other plans
Brendan McKay, Tampa Bay Rays
It will be interesting to see how much longer the Rays let McKay hit. If he focused on pitching alone, he’d be the top lefty prospect in the game hands down in this writer’s humble opinion.
That said, McKay can hit. He powers up, has good plate discipline, and can play a pretty solid first base. But he can really pitch well.
The 22-year-old had a solid Florida State League debut. He has a four-pitch arsenal — low-to-mid-90s fastball, curve, cutter, and change — that all should play at the next level. It’s tough to tell such a smart and smooth hitter to abandon a skillset as strong as McKay’s, but he has a bright future as a rotation arm very soon.
Logan Allen, San Diego Padres
Here’s what our own John Sickels said heading into 2018, when he ranked Logan Allen the No. 7 prospect in the Friars’ system:
Age 20, drafted by Red Sox in eighth round in 2015, traded to Padres in Craig Kimbrel deal; posted 2.95 ERA in 125 innings between Low-A and High-A with 142/44 K/BB, 109 hits, just three homers allowed; fastball 90-94, plays up due to strong change-up and average but workable breaking ball; the flip side of Quantrill, as Allen’s scouting reports (while good) aren’t as good as the performance, which was excellent, possible number three starter. ETA 2019.
The performance was excellent again in 2018. Allen went a combined 14-6 with a 2.54 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and a 151:51 ration over 148.2 innings. His go in Triple-A was a curious one. A simple look at the 1.63 ERA would get you excited, but a 5.16 FIP, uncharacteristic 4.23 walks-per-nine and 36.5 ground ball rate, and increased home rate (although that’s less surprising in a PCL debut) raise some concern. Still, Allen is an exciting prospect that is close.
Lewis Thorpe, Minnesota Twins
Thorpe is intriguing, but seems like a safe bet to be a solid back-of-the-rotation arm for the Twins. John likes him, and ranked him the Twins No. 9 prospect heading into 2019:
Age 22, from Australia, posted 3.54 ERA with 157/36 K/BB in 130 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 125 hits; missed two seasons of development with Tommy John surgery then a severe case of mono; low-90s fastball, plus change-up, slider and curve are coming along well, throws strikes, nice K-rate; has occasional gopheritis but projects well as number four starter with a chance for more.
He had a small go in Triple-A this year, but was sharp over four appearances. He struck out 10.80-per-nine, while just walking 2.49-per-nine and posted a solid 3.56 FIP. He has a chance to sneak up on people and have a surprisingly strong debut.
Others of Intrigue:
Tyler Alexander, Detroit Tigers: I liked him a lot when I saw him in the Florida State League, but his career hasn’t progressed as I thought it might. He’s close now, so we’ll find out soon enough.
Cole Irvin, Philadelphia Phillies: The southpaw had a breakout season for the Iron Pigs, striking out a career high 7.31 per-nine while walking just 1.95 per-nine. The Phillies are young and he seems like a guy who’ll be able to provide some innings next season.