While he didn’t make the Top 20 cut, Luciano may make an immediate impact with the Blue Jays.
It’s that time of year again! We’re counting down our Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects for 2019. We’ve selected our Top 20 and will be profiling each one. You are bound to find many of these lists in your travels, which makes for great conversation. The basis for rankings varies even more than the number of lists you’ll find. Some prefer to look at how close to “big league ready” a prospect is, while others look at “stuff” or “tools”. To construct our list, we have scoured over scouting reports, numbers and a lot more to finalize our 2019 Top Prospects list. Feel free to weigh in on each selection in the comment section! It’s part of the fun!
With very little threat of contending in 2019, the Toronto Blue Jays decided to get weird with the annual Rule 5 draft in December, selecting 18-year old Elvis Luciano out of the Kansas City organization, where he’d been playing in Rookie-level Appalachian and Pioneer Leagues. Due to a loophole in the Rule 5 draft rules, the Arizona Diamondbacks ended up voiding Luciano’s contract over a health issue and he was left unprotected in the draft. The Royals received Luciano in last summer’s Jon Jay trade, and left him unprotected – because who takes and 18-year old in the Rule 5?
Well, Ross Atkins does.
At first the move was bewildering, especially with potential 2019 impact arms such as Jordan Romano and Travis Bergen left unprotected, and subsequently taken by the Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox respectively. But somewhere, someone within the Blue Jays organization was enamored with the Young Elvis, and felt there was a way to keep him on the 40-man roster throughout 2019 and fully cementing the claim for a mere $100,000. A season when you’re not expected to compete is about as good of a time as any to make that happen.
But what about Luciano made the Blue Jays go so far off the board and risk exposing him to MLB hitters – especially those in the American League East?
We’ll start with the stuff.
Elvis Luciano, the Pitcher
At just 6’2″ and 185 lbs., Luciano has a ways to go in physical development. His frame brings to mind the late Yordano Ventura of the Kansas City Royals, who stood at just 6′ and came in at a more robust 190 lbs. Elvis will barely be 19 by Opening Day, and he’s going to look like a teenager for a while. That being said, he’s already working in the low-to-mid 90s with a four-seam fastball and the makings of a curve ball and change-up.
The fastball is heavy and the curve is already described as above-average for someone of his age, but it is expected that he’ll need to work on the change-up, which is currently below-average. Luciano thrives on weak contact and ground balls, which are both traits the Blue Jays are building their pitching depth with. He has also struck out 122 (Rookie-level) batters in 133+ minor league innings, likely thanks to working his plus-fastball up in the zone.
Aside from the stuff, the results are there as well:
|2017||17||3 Teams||3 Lgs||ARI||4||1||2.84||4.05||16||8||66.2||58||30||21||2||18||52||272||1.140||7.8||0.3||2.4||7.0||2.89|
|2018||18||2 Teams||2 Lgs||KCR||5||5||3.90||4.16||13||12||67.0||61||31||29||4||23||70||283||1.254||8.2||0.5||3.1||9.4||3.04|
The “Incredible Delivery”
Sometimes, a player just looks the part on the mound. We see or read this in many different baseball cliches, like “effortless” or “fluid” or “polished.” While it is mostly just scout-speak, it means something, and Elvis Luciano certainly seems to have it in the form of his “incredible delivery” – one of the reasons GM Ross Atkins, and presumably the Jays’ scouts, were drawn to him. Watch for yourself in this Fangraphs video:
Shades of Marcus Stroman are apparent, but it’s hard not to agree with Atkins on the delivery assessment. Now Stroman is a bit of a junkballer, keeping opposing batters off-balance and inducing ground balls, while working in some swing-and-miss breaking stuff. It’s hard to see Luciano going exactly the same path, but maybe the similarities were what convinced the Blue Jays to take a shot on an 18-year old.
2019 and Beyond
In order for the Blue Jays to keep Elvis Luciano, they’ll either have to keep him on the roster all season or work out a trade with the Royals. The second seems unlikely, as the Royals would likely ask for a significant return. And while it may seem strange to keep a player in the big leagues for an entire season just to control his entry contract, it’s just weird enough to work. The Blue Jays have a season to get weird, and the Luciano Project might be the weirdest thing we’ll see in 2019.
He’ll pitch out of the bullpen, likely receiving some mop-up duty and some spot starts here and there against weak competition. But at some times, it’s likely that the Jays will throw him against some stiffer competition, like the Red Sox or Yankees. In the end, this may accelerate his development as a pitcher. It might also wreck the kid’s future in the game.
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.