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Yankees 2023 Season Preview: Jonathan Loáisiga

The sinkerballer proved during the stretch run and the playoffs that he can be dominant if healthy.

Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

With the Yankees’ pitching staff in the midst of a bit of an injury crisis, having a proven, young, hard-throwing reliever like Jonathan Loásiga is of extreme importance. The right-hander managed to overcome a rocky first two months of the 2022 campaign and a shoulder injury to come back stronger in July and resemble the pitcher he was in 2021. He’ll need to be a rock while the Yankees rehab some of their other arms.

We can – and we will – examine Loáisiga’s 2022 campaign by the numbers, but the most important takeaway is that he might have been pitching hurt in April and May, and after taking some time off to heal, he was an effective and important member of the bullpen. That should leave us confident that he can fill the important role the Yankees will need him in to start the season.

2022 Statistics: 50 games played, 48.0 IP, 4.13 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 18.2 K%, 9.4 BB%, 0.4 fWAR

2023 ZiPS Projections: 50 games played, 56 IP, 3.21 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 22.0 K%, 7.8 BB%, 0.7 fWAR

For the upcoming year, the Yankees are expecting more of the same, especially now that Lou Trivino and Tommy Kahnle won’t be healthy in the outset. We all know relievers are volatile, but if anyone has a solid floor, it’s Loáisiga.

As we saw last year after he returned from his injury, his high-velocity sinker lets him generate grounders and, therefore, lots of outs even when his strikeout game isn’t at its best.

He does need his sinker to be on point to succeed, though, as we witnessed during the first two months of last season. As Esteban Rivera explained, his command was pretty much gone, and he was leaving his sinker in the fat part of the zone, and opposing hitters took advantage.

He was placed on the injured list with shoulder inflammation in late May, suggesting that his physical issues could have had something to do with the fact he had a 7.02 ERA in 16 2/3 innings at that point.

He was activated in July, and from that moment forward until the end of the season, he had a 2.59 ERA and a 2.76 FIP in 31.1 innings. The strikeouts – 19 over that span – were down, but his velocity was about the same as ever. Some of those missing whiffs should resurface, especially considering both his curveball and changeup earned whiff rates over 40 percent.

Overall, he had a 4.13 ERA in 48 frames, but it came with a solid 3.57 FIP. He was a star in the playoffs, too, with a 0.96 ERA in 9.1 innings against top-tier opposition. We have every reason to believe that, with full health, Loáisiga can be a sub-3.00s ERA pitcher for the Yankees across a full season.

As long as he has that 63.4 percent ground ball rate – his mark after July 14 – and the Yankees’ infield defense is strong (it should be, once again, in 2023), he is set up for success.

The proud Nicaraguan represented his country in the World Baseball Classic, where he was perhaps the highest-profile player. Oddly enough, he surrendered all three runs on Sunday 3-1 loss against Israel, though he rebounded yesterday in Nicaragua’s finale against a more potent Venezuela offense.

Having finished his participation with Nicaragua in the WBC, the flamethrower will return to Yankees’ camp to get ready for an important campaign. The Bombers will need everyone to be at their very best if they want to dethrone the Houston Astros and hold off emerging powerhouses in the American League, and that includes Loáisiga.

He will be a man on a mission, trying to silence the doubters who point to his rough start last year and bring some stability to the Yankees’ relief corps. Odds are on his side to achieve those objectives.