Jesus Luzardo had yet to throw a single pitch as a professional baseball player in 2016 when he underwent Tommy John surgery.
Luzardo, just 18 years old at the time, saw his senior season at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School cut short.
His baseball future was facing a potentially significant obstacle.
Two years later, Luzardo was on the mound of the MLB team that drafted him in spite of his setback.
The Peruvian-born Luzardo started for the World Team at Nationals Park Sunday in the MLB Futures Game - the annual showcase of prospects held two days before the All-Star Game.
Two summers since surgery, Luzardo is one of baseball’s top prospects and continuing what could be the start of a promising pitching career.
“A year off from baseball [while rehabbing] was really tough so to be back and be healthy and do what I love to do is an unbelievable feeling,” Luzardo said. “My arm feels even stronger now.”
Luzardo, 20, is the Oakland Athletics’ top prospect and is rated the No. 19 overall prospect by Baseball America.
After signing with the University of Miami during his senior season at Douglas, the Nationals offered Luzardo a $1.4 million contract well above his slot value after they chose him in the third round of the 2016 draft.
Luzardo chose to sign with Washington.
After pitching rookie ball for the Nationals, Luzardo was traded to Oakland as part of the deal that sent relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington in 2017.
Luzardo has compiled an 8-4 record with a 2.54 ERA in 16 combined starts this season at Single A and Double A with 99 strikeouts and 20 walks.
On Sunday, Luzardo threw two innings for the World team allowing one run on three hits with no walks and two strikeouts.
Luzardo has continued to show the same arm strength he had before the surgery with a fastball touching 98 mph and consistently in the mid-90s. He has also developed a solid array of secondary pitches that projects well as a future starter perhaps as early as the 2019 season for the A’s.
“I’m feeling healthy thankfully and I just want to keep the success going,” Luzardo said. “I think my dad was even more excited than I was when he found out I was going to be in the Futures Game.”
▪ Touki Toussaint was ready to take a nap last week before making his scheduled Triple A start. Then he got a phone call he was headed to the Futures Game.
Toussaint, who caught the eyes of scouts at Coral Springs Christian School with his near-100 mph fastball in high school, was a late replacement on the World Team roster after Cleveland Indians prospect Francisco Mejia was called up to the majors this week.
Toussaint, who was drafted by Arizona in 2014 with the 16th pick overall and later traded to Atlanta in 2015, is the Braves’ No. 10 overall prospect. His career has been on a fast track the past couple of seasons after a stellar season in Double A that earned him a promotion to Triple A recently.
Toussaint compiled a 2.93 ERA this year in Double A with 107 strikeouts in 86 innings. His improved strikeout to walk rate as he’s learned to command his powerful fastball and develop secondary pitches could earn him a call-up in the near future and possibly give him a shot at a future rotation spot in Atlanta in the coming years.
“You gain experience and gain maturity over the years,” said Toussaint, who represented Haiti where his family is from. “You feel like you start crawling and then walking and now I’m running. It’s been a lot of fun.”
▪ Plantation American Heritage produced one All-Star in Eric Hosmer and has another potential All-Star in the making if Boston Red Sox 2018 first-round pick Triston Casas lives up to the expectations of many.
Shaun Anderson would like to add a pitcher to Heritage’s growing list of notable baseball alumni.
Anderson, a right-handed pitcher that’s rated the No. 7 overall prospect of the San Francisco Giants by MLBPipeline.com, was the last pick in the 2013 draft of the Nationals out of high school.
Anderson, 23, went on to pitch for the University of Florida and was later drafteed again by the Red Sox in 2016 in the third round. Boston then traded Anderson to the Giants as part of the deal the teams made for Eduardo Nunez in 2017.
“I played against a bunch of these guys and with some of them when I went to Florida,” Anderson said of the Futures Game. “It’s been an awesome experience.”
Anderson participated in minor-league camp during spring training with the Giants. Anderson said he got a chance to interact with Giants pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Ty Blach and gained valuable insights.
Anderson (6-4, 225 pounds) has a 3.45 ERA in 94 innings (16 starts, 17 appearances) and has 93 strikeouts and 22 walks at Double A this year.
“I’ve been working a lot on my changeup and working on tunneling pitches and making them all kind of look the same until the last minute,” Anderson said. “I’ve been implementing that throughout the season. It’s been helpful.”