The last few weeks have seen the Yankees suffer numerous injuries to some of their biggest stars. Their injury troubles stretch far past the previous month, however. They’ve been dealing with losses in their rotation all season, from Jordan Montgomery’s Tommy John surgery back in April, to CC Sabathia’s brief sabbatical to rest his knee last week.
Included in that list of ailments is Jonathan Loaisiga. The 23-year-old right-hander was a mild revelation earlier in the year before coming down with a shoulder problem. He tore up the lower minors, posting a 2.94 ERA in 13 starts across Single-A and Double-A. He struck out 64 and walked just eight.
His performance was impressive enough that the Yankees promoted him aggressively, slotting him into the rotation directly from Double-A, skipping Triple-A altogether. The results were mixed. Loaisiga flashed electric stuff at times and struck out over a batter per inning, but the control he showed in the minors deserted him, driving up his walk rate and pitch counts. He posted a 3.00 ERA in the majors, but lasted only 18 innings in four starts.
After a couple months on the shelf, Loaisiga is back. He returned on August 17th and was uneven, needing 41 pitches to get just four outs. He made his next start on the 21st and looked back in the swing of things. He limited the Phillies’ Double-A affiliate to one run over four innings, using only 49 pitches, 31 of them strikes.
Reports on Loaisiga’s stuff were promising. From Jon Mozes, a member of the Trenton Thunder’s broadcast team, on Twitter:
A quick 4th inning for Jonathan Loaisiga as he retires the side on 8 pitches.— Jon Mozes (@spelledwithaZ) August 23, 2018
Fastball has been 94-97 on the stadium gun here in Reading and both curve and change have gotten big swings and misses.
4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 49 pitches // 31 strikes
If the reports are to be believed, Loaisiga’s stuff is close to where it was when the Yankees initially brought him up. That would make him a highly intriguing option as a September call-up down the stretch.
In all likelihood, if Loaisiga were to get the call back up, he would not slot back into the rotation, given that J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn have generally acquitted themselves well in New York. Still, Loaisiga’s outstanding fastball and strong breaking ball could make him a potential impact addition to the bullpen.
Per Statcast, Loaisiga sat at 95.8 mph on his fastball during his stint with the Yankees. His breaking ball, which can shift in shape from a sharp slider to a more heavy curveball, posted an excellent whiff rate above 44%. Loaisiga would have the potential to be dominant if he pared down in the bullpen to those two pitches. His changeup, a vital part of his starting repertoire, lags behind his other offerings, and could be curtailed in a relief role.
His velocity was already great as a starter, and probably would play up as a reliever. He maxed out at 98 mph on his four-seamer. If he aired it out in shorter outings, sitting at 97 or 98 mph and using his breaker exclusively as his out pitch, the results could potentially be dominant.
Dominance would be a lot to ask for from a young rookie in a pennant race. More likely, Loaisiga will be eased back into action and won’t have a great chance to make an impact. But the potential is there, and Loaisiga is worth keeping an eye on. He was good enough to break into the majors despite starting the year in High-A. If he can return to full health and sees his stuff play up in relief, the Yankees could add yet another option to their already deep bullpen.