Jesus Luzardo best pitching prospect despite rankings

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Jesus Luzardo #44 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Texas Rangers during the seventh inning at the RingCentral Coliseum on September 21, 2019 in Oakland, California. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Texas Rangers 12-3. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Jesus Luzardo #44 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Texas Rangers during the seventh inning at the RingCentral Coliseum on September 21, 2019 in Oakland, California. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Texas Rangers 12-3. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /
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The rankings may say otherwise, but Jesus Luzardo is the best pitching prospect in the baseball right now.

There is no question that Jesus Luzardo is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. The Oakland Athletics youngster has been a consensus top 15 prospect prior to each of the past two seasons, with the expectation that he will become the A’s next ace. His major league debut only served to whet the appetite, as his 1.50 ERA and 16 strikeouts over 12 innings showed what type of pitcher he could be.

However, on virtually every prospect list, Luzardo is the second ranked pitcher. The honor of being considered the top pitching prospect falls upon San Diego Padres phenom MacKenzie Gore. The young left hander has rocketed through the system and has been a consensus top six prospect heading into this season.

It is easy to see why prospect prognosticators would be high on Gore. The third overall pick of the 2017 MLB Draft has had nothing but success in his minor league career, with the 2019 campaign being no different. Between High-A and AA, he posted a 1.69 ERA and a 0.832 WHiP, striking out 135 batters with just 28 walks in his 101 innings.

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The difference between the two prospects is that Luzardo has been tested at the highest levels of the minors and passed. In his 16 game stint in AA in 2018, the A’s prospect posted a 2.29 ERA and a 0.966 WHiP, striking out 86 batters with 18 walks in 78.2 innings.

Gore, meanwhile, struggled in his first taste of AA. In an admittedly small sample size of 21.2 innings, he faced another speed bump. He posted a 4.15 ERA and a 1.292 WHiP, striking out 25 batters, but also issuing eight walks. Gore also struggled in spring training, allowing three runs on two hits and two walks in his 1.2 innings before the shutdown.

Chances are, Gore will get another chance to prove himself in AA once the season begins. He had struggled before, having a rough 2018 campaign in the Midwest League before dominating the California League last year. But given that AA is considered the proving ground for top prospects, his struggles there are enough to take a second look.

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Both Oakland Athletics prospect Jesus Luzardo and San Diego Padres prospect MacKenzie Gore should be aces for their respective teams. While both are extremely talented, Luzardo has more of a track record against top competition, giving him the edge as the top pitching prospect.

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