Be prepared. You have been put on notice. The southpaws are on the way to a ballpark near you. An impressive collection of gifted left handed pitchers litter the list of top MLB prospects heading in to the 2019 season. Is 2019 the year their childhood dreams of becoming a big leaguer come true? Will 2019 be the year one of these top prospects toes the rubber and faces a major league hitter? Only time will tell if the dreams of these three southpaws becomes a reality.
Seattle Mariners – Justus Sheffield
Justus Sheffield might be the first to step on a major league pitcher’s mound in 2019. The Mariners are desperate for help in their rotation and Sheffield has logged several impressive innings under his belt in the minors the last four years. The Mariners acquired Sheffield in mid-November in a trade that sent Mariner ace James Paxton to the Yankees. Sheffield boasts a fastball in the mid-90’s that can keep a batter honest. However, the Mariners believe the 22-year old’s best pitch is his slider, which has become his strikeout pitch. Sheffield will need to work on his command and continue to develop a changeup for his offerings. The middle and back end of the Mariners rotation is a hodgepodge of veterans and Sheffield will be given an opportunity to compete in the spring with aspirations of joining the team on Opening Day.
Oakland Athletics – Jesus Luzardo
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Perhaps the most polished of this group of lefties is Oakland prospect Jesus Luzardo. The youngster from Parkland, Florida is arguably the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game, and is coveted by the A’s front office. Oakland must feel like the winners of a trade sending relievers Sean Doolitle and Ryan Madson to the Nationals in 2017 as Luzardo has blossomed and progressed after having Tommy John surgery in March 2016. He has steadily increased his velocity with a sinking mid-90s fastball that gets ground balls, and developed a deceptive changeup and above average curve to improve his arsenal. Luzardo’s biggest strength is his command of both sides of the plate and his presences on the mound, and he looks to insert himself in the conversation of the A’s starting rotation this spring.
Oakland Athletics – A.J. Puk
Unfortunately for the rest of the AL West, it’s true. Yes the A’s have another southpaw on the rise in the minor leagues. Towering prospect A.J. Puk stands 6’ 7” and boasts a fastball in the high 90s that led the Minors in 2017 with a 13.2 strikeouts-per-nine ratio. Puk’s strikeout pitch is unquestionably a devastating slider that kept minor league batters guessing in 2017. He is able to mix in a curveball and an improving changeup to his impressive pitch selection. He is a raw talent with tremendous upside that the A’s view as a future ace. Puk’s biggest area of improvement is harnessing his control, an ailment he struggled with during his days at the University of Florida. Puk, the sixth-overall pick in the 2016 draft was on the rise until he underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2018, sidelining him for the season. Puk has been invited to spring training and the A’s will certainly monitor his innings and delivery this year, setting back a possible major league debut until 2020.