Who is he and where did he come from?
He’s Lucas Luetge and he comes from the Atlanta Braves. Hey — the Braves are good! Unfortunately, he comes from the Braves after being waived, because while the 2023 Braves were very good, 2023 Lucas Luetge was not.
What position does he play?
He’s a left-handed relief pitcher, meaning he’ll always be able to find a team to give him a look.
Is he any good?
In his rookie year, Lucas Luetge helped the Seattle Mariners throw a combined no-hitter. There’s a fair bit of consternation about combined no-hitters these days and whether they actually count as no-hitters at all. But nevetheless, I imagine that the relievers who team up to exucute them find the experience pretty thrilling. But the thing about Luetge’s contribution to the no-no (which came against the Dodgers in June 2012) is that Luetge recorded just a single out . . . and it came via a sacrifice bunt attempt by James Loney. So while, yes, he recorded one of the 27 outs that made the no-hitter possible, he only did so because the batter he was facing was trying to get out. You can make a case that Lucas Luetge made the single smallest contribution to a combined no-hitter in baseball history.
But I wonder if it’s possible that the thrill and memory of that combined no-hitter kept some flicker of hope alive inside Luetge. Because following that somewhat promising rookie year (he maintained an ERA under 4 in 40.2 innings, even though he struggled with control), Luetge would spend the next eight years completely lost in the wilderness of professional baseball. He spent three more seasons in the Seattle organization, failing to secure a steady Major League role and throwing just 48.1 additional innings during that span. Then he signed with the Angels . . . and then the Reds . . . and then the Orioles . . . and then the Diamondbacks . . . and then finally the A’s. Five different organizations in five years, without a single one of those teams giving him another shot at the big leagues.
It can’t be easy to spend five years being told you’re not good enough for your dream job. But Luetge kept going, and in 2021 he accepted a non-roster invite to spring training with the Yankees. He impressed down in Tampa, and over the next two seasons he would finally stick in a big league bullpen. He figured out how to pare down the walks that plagued him early in his career, he was downright elite at limiting hard contact, and he was the 23rd most valuable reliever in all of baseball by fWAR during his time in the Bronx. (He even found himself involved a combined no-hitter, though on the losing end this time. Lucas Luetge has been involved in ten percent of all the combined no-hitters that have ever been thrown, and yet he probably didn’t really enjoy either one of them.)
Despite his success with the Yankees, he was released before the 2023 season and picked up by the Braves. The Yankees, unfortunately, are really good at building bullpens, and they saw something problematic in Luetge’s game, even as his surface-level production remained steady. His next season with the Braves was ugly, especially with respect to his cutter, which got hammered after being his primary out-pitch for two years.
So it’s safe to call Luetge a reclamation project, albeit one was pretty good just one year ago.
Show me a cool highlight.
Here’s what might be the best stretch of his career: a 7-inning run in which he allowed just one earned run while striking out 9 and walking just 2. This is a fun video, too, because you can follow along with the pitch sequencing.
What’s he doing in his picture up there?
Giving you some inspiration for the imminent return of Mustache March — which I will forever insist is a much better mustache-growing month than November. Why, you ask? Because think about how you get to Mustache March in the first place: by making it through Full-Beard February.
What’s his role on the 2024 Red Sox?
Right now, the only lefty bullpen options the Sox have are Brennan Bernardino (himself a successful reclamation project) and Joe Jacques. Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey obviously think they can do some tinkering with Luetge and get him back to his 21-22 form. If they can, there’s no reason why he can’t find himself as important member of the pen.
Of course it’s also entirely possible that he’s not even a member of the organization on Opening Day.