It’s difficult for teams to nurture and develop top lefties, and this is evidenced by the few young options that can really dominate in the league.
Which are the top 3 young left-handed pitchers in baseball for the 2021 season, then?
Top 3 Young Lefties To Watch In 2021
Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics
With four pitches and statistical evidence that he can be a successful starter in Major League Baseball, the Oakland Athletics have a great one in Jesus Luzardo.
Among the listed pitchers in this exercise, Luzardo is by far the youngest, at 23 years old, so he has his best days ahead of him.
Luzardo had a scintillating debut in 2019, with a 1.50 ERA and a 2.63 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) in 12 innings.
He struck out 15 batters in those 12 innings, and the A’s were thrilled.
Luzardo had his first full opportunity in 2020, but the numbers were somewhat disappointing: 4.12 ERA and a 4.19 FIP in 49 innings pitched.
There were, however, positive signs, such as his 9.00 K/9 and his 95 miles per hour on average with his fastball.
Jesús Luzardo, 94mph Fastball, 82mph Breaking ball and 86mph Changeup, Overlay (synced at release). ✝️🦎 pic.twitter.com/wk4hbJqhSV
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 27, 2019
With formidable breaking pitches in his curveball and changeup, Luzardo can be among the league leaders in strikeouts.
Max Fried, Atlanta Braves
Trusted with being the ace of the playoff-bound Atlanta Braves in 2020, a 26-year-old Fried didn’t disappoint and became one of baseball’s top lefties.
Now 27, Fried will try to consolidate the gains that made him a top lefty in 2020.
In 11 starts and 56.0 innings, Fried had a 2.25 ERA and a 3.10 FIP last year, with a 22.3% strikeout rate and a 8.5% walk rate.
He induced whiffs and grounders, the latter at a 53.0% clip.
The Braves brought fellow lefty Drew Smyly and righty Charlie Morton, but even with rookie Ian Anderson trying to prove his excellent 2020 was no fluke, it will be Fried the one who will carry the rotation, likely deep into the postseason.
A little teaser as I prep for the pod tonight…
Max Fried and Ian Anderson combined for a 2.41 ERA in 78.1 innings in 2020.
Every other SP combined for a 6.91 ERA in 173.1 IP https://t.co/onURpXptkC
— Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) March 7, 2021
John Means, Baltimore Orioles
Still 27 years old, John Means is the Baltimore Orioles’ ace in 2021, expected to be the team leader in lots of pitching categories
He had a breakout season in 2019, when he put a 3.60 ERA in 155.0 innings on the strength of a fantastic changeup, one of the best in the league according to Fangraphs (12.3 Pitch Value.)
John Means, 5Ks by Changeup (of his 6ks in 5 innings yesterday). pic.twitter.com/0m5Wr7WPDD
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 25, 2019
Last season was atypical for him, as he suffered an arm injury just before the 2020 campaign started and then his father died, and he lost lots of innings because of those two events.
He finished the year with a 4.53 ERA, but found his stride in the last month of the season, when he had a 2.48 ERA, four walks and 31 strikeouts in 29 frames.
The Orioles’ slim playoff hopes depend, in great part, of what Means can do this season, as he is showing in spring training that he is still keeping the velocity gains (94-95 mph) he acquired in 2020.