The Oakland Athletics will have a different feel on the mound in 2020 with a young and talented starting rotation. Although the majority of their pitchers are inexperienced at the big-league level, it’s going to be exciting to see how certain arms fare in their first full major-league season.
With Brett Anderson and Homer Bailey leaving in free agency, Chris Bassitt likely work out of the pen, while Jesus Luzardo, Mike Fiers, Sean Manaea, A.J. Puk, and Frankie Montas round out the A’s 2020 rotation. Montas, who was very impressive in 16 starts in 2019, was suspended for 80 games due to the use of an illegal substance, but he’s ready to roll for the upcoming season, having already appeared in spring training games.
Luzardo and Puk both made their big-league debuts last season and pitched just under 20 innings apiece out of the bullpen for manager Bob Melvin. Two of Oakland’s top prospects, the lefty duo was dominant in the minors in starting roles.
Fiers brings a ton of big-league experience to the table, having led the A’s in innings pitched last year and tossing 184.2 innings with a 3.90 ERA. Manaea spent the majority of last year rehabbing a shoulder issue, returning in September. Nevertheless, he was impressive in 29.2 innings, compiling a 1.21 ERA in five starts. He also made a vital start in the AL Wild Card game against the Tampa Bay Rays, despite missing most of 2019. The big lefty pitched at least 140 innings in 2016, 2017, and 2018 and has developed into one of the A’s go-to rotation arms.
Montas, Puk, and Luzardo can all bring it. All three can ramp it up into the high 90s and complement their electric heater with quality off-speed pitches.
Although Puk was featured out of the bullpen in his short big-league stint last year, the 6-foot-7 lefty averaged 97 mph on his fastball, which he threw 63 percent of the time. He used his hard, sharp, wipeout slider as his primary off-speed pitch to put away hitters while throwing a changeup and curveball from time to time. He missed the majority of 2019 due to Tommy John Surgery.
The 24-year old has an effortless delivery with great deception. He absolutely baffled big-league hitters last year with his top-notch stuff. Since he’ll be in a starting role this season, expect his fastball to average more in the 94-95 mph range so he can pitch deeper into games, although he can heat it up to the upper 90’s when he needs to.
Jesus Luzardo quickly became a household name as one of the most exciting young arms in the game when he made his MLB debut at the tail end of last year. The hard-throwing lefty is currently Oakland’s number one prospect and the number 18 prospect in all of baseball.
In six appearances last year Luzardo struck out 16 hitters in just 12 innings, while collecting a 1.50 ERA. The 22-year old showed off his wide array of pitches, featuring a fantastic breaking ball that was his primary pitch, followed by a mid-90s sinker and a devastating changeup.
Lastly, Frankie Montas. The flamethrowing righty brings quite a bit of big-league experience to this rotation, having made his debut in 2015 with the Chicago White Sox. Between injuries and his suspension last year, Montas hasn’t pitched a whole lot at the major-league level, though, his 96 innings pitched last year were the most he has pitched in one season since making his debut in the show almost five years ago. He did impress last year, though, starting 16 games and compiling a 2.63 ERA while striking out 103 hitters in the process.
Everything he throws is hard. His sinker sits in the mid-to-high 90’s, while his split-finger and slider are both offerings that clock in around 86-88 mph. The slider was his best offering last year, where oppositions hit just .167 against it. If he can stay healthy, Montas will be a staple in the A’s rotation in 2020.
Future Looking Bright
With a bevy of young arms in their staff, Oakland could have one of the better rotations in the American League this season. With Fiers and Manaea bringing stability and experience, Montas, Luzardo, and Puk should definitely come into their own as three of the most talented youngsters in the game.
Just how good can this A’s rotation be this year? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure: The future is in good hands.