With the playoff push right around the corner, now is the time to do homework and find the missing pieces to help aid your lineup. Most trade deadlines have past, and most acquisitions will be done from the waiver wire. Spot starts will become ever so important, and there are not only minor league prospects that will be called within the next month, once rosters expand, but there are two pitchers I’m paying special attention to: Oakland’s Jesus Luzardo and San Francisco’s Johnny Cueto. Both pitchers are coming back from injury, and barring a setback, each should be available in numerous leagues. This week, I’m turning my focus to both in, “That’s Amore!” Two Pitchers to Add Down the Stretch.
Luzardo entered the season as one of the hottest targets in drafts. After dominating Spring Training, he saw his stock soar up draft boards only to be shut down, prior to the season’s start, due to a shoulder strain. After being shut down for an extended period of time, he had a setback with a lat strain. Finally healthy, Luzardo has made stops through three different levels of minor league ball posting a 2.22 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 37:2 K:BB. It looks like he should be headed for a call to Oakland within the upcoming weeks.
The Athletics currently sit 10 games out of the American League West, and 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. They’re going to need a healthy lineup, and Luzardo could bring some depth to the rotation. With 43 games remaining, the Athletics have a favorable schedule, minus matchups against Houston and New York, with remaining teams owning a combined 456-488 record. There’s no questioning Luzardo’s ability, and he commands the strike zone well. With matchups against Kansas City, Los Angeles Angels, Detroit, Texas, and Seattle remaining, he immediately becomes a prized acquisition with the ability to find himself with desirable matchups. Given the fact he commands the strike zone well, and doesn’t walk hitters, he should get the chance to sport solid stat lines. I’d monitor his progression in his next few starts, and ultimately try to lock him up if you have a spot for him on your team.
Cueto’s making his way back from Tommy John Surgery, and the 33 year-old is a wild card down the stretch. It’s hard to trust a player returning from Tommy John Surgery, and pitchers usually take a season or two before we see them a full strength. Unlike Luzardo, Cueto’s Giants have remaining games against teams that own a combined 662-637 record. However, after teams like the Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers, Braves, and Red Sox they do have favorable matchups against Arizona, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Miami, and Colorado. Winning the division is more of an afterthought, but the Giants find themselves only 3.5 games out of a Wild Card spot.
How much stock can we put into Cueto? There’s no question he’s going to be on an innings limit/pitch count, and he’s currently thrown 4.0 innings in rookie ball. If the Giants are still in the Wild Card hunt come September, there’s no doubt in my mind he will be up once rosters expand. Recent reports suggest his velocity is right around his average of 93 MPH, and he’s getting a feel for his secondary pitches. Location is going to be the key for him, and with favorable matchups, he could squeak out some solid starts. There will be numerous rookies getting their call once rosters expand, but it’s hard for me to turn away from a veteran down the stretch, even coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery. Monitor Cueto’s progression closely, but he could be a diamond in the rough as I will take a veteran over an unknown rookie commodity any day of the week.