Anybody within the Marlins organization who was counting on a change of scenery to immediate straighten out Jesús Luzardo’s career was left unsatiated.
The once-coveted pitching prospect came over from the Athletics in the Starling Marte trade. Luzardo, who’d already struggled to the tune of a 6.87 ERA and 6.09 FIP through the first 4 months of the 2021 season, continued along the same path of poor pitching. He posted a 6.44 ERA over 57 1⁄3 innings in Miami, averaging less than 5 innings over his 12 starts.
This spring, however, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas alum looked like he may be turning the corner. Everybody from Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Miguel Rojas to Kim Ng touted him at various times as somebody whose offseason training yielded tangible improvements. In 3 Grapefruit League starts, Luzardo struck out 10 over 11 2⁄3 innings, all while surrendering just one earned run.
According to Statcast, Luzardo averaged 97.7 miles per hour on his spring game fastballs (four-seamers and sinkers combined). He was at 95.5 mph last season.
Jesus Luzardo today vs the Astros:— DataBase Hit (@DatabaseHit) March 27, 2022
4.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R/0 ER, 5 K
▫️FB velo +1.4, Max 98.7
▫️ 49% Swing, 33% Whiffs
▫️CB & FB usage ⬆️
The Marlins are known for their SP development and they may have unlocked something in Luzardo.
“Jesús has been more settled,” noted manager Don Mattingly on Saturday. “He’s emotional. He gets going fast...He’s starting to understand when those things are coming.”
These early returns for Luzardo have been promising, but overriding preconceived notions about a player based on small sample size preseason performance only serves to disappoint those who succumb to it.
Luzardo’s underlying metrics are a mixed bag. While he may have averaged a hair more than a strikeout per inning with Miami last season (9.1 K/9), the left-hander finished in the 41st and 46th percentile in K and chase rate. Even then, Luzardo still placed in the 74th percentile in whiff rate.
A four-seam fastball with 81st percentile average velocity generated terrible outcomes for Luzardo. Among 239 pitchers to have at least 100 plate appearances end on the pitch, he ranked 7th-worst with a plus-12 run value. Opponents hit .348 with a .674 slugging percentage. Only Baltimore’s Bruce Zimmermann and Luzardo’s teammate Elieser Hernández allowed a higher opponent’s slugging.
And while command plagued Luzardo in Oakland last season (3.8 BB/9), things got even worse following the trade. He walked 32 in his 57 1⁄3 innings with the Fish (5.0). No other pitcher in baseball issued more free passes from August onward.
Luzardo’s run prevention failures overstate his issues a bit, though. His 5.07 FIP and WHIP of 1.605 suggest he would have been more competitive on the mound if his luck evened out. Most projection systems forecast his ERA to dip into the mid-4’s moving forward despite the arrival of the universal designated hitter.
Luzardo is slotted to break camp as the fifth starter in the Marlins rotation as he looks to validate the hype that surrounded him in his prospect days. Remember, this is only his age-24 season. In the event that Luzardo’s adjustments don’t translate to real games, he still has 2 minor league option years remaining.