The Yankees rotation is in trouble. After losing Jordan Montgomery for the year with a torn UCL, Masahiro Tanaka just pulled both his hamstrings running the bases. Unfortunately, there are no obvious replacements lined up at this time. The Yankees are in desperate need of a starting pitcher or two, but the team can’t just throw anyone in there and hope it will work out. That is why they can’t expect to rely on Jonathan Loaisiga this season.
Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of talk about Loaisiga being called up to the major league roster, but it seems almost insane to suggest such a thing. For those who don’t know, Loaisiga is a 23-year-old pitching prospect in the system who was added to the 40-man roster this winter in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
He’s a guy with a lot of talent, who can throw in the high-90s with a changeup and power curve. Loaisiga’s true talent is evident by his ability to throw strikes consistently with an 11.6 K/9 against a minuscule 0.8 BB/9. That’s 58 strikeouts against just four walks. That’s honestly insane, but there’s a reason the Yankees are a little nuts to consider calling him up this season.
Despite the fact that Loaisiga is already 23, he has literally only thrown 20 innings above High-A! He spent the entire 2017 season in rookie ball and short season and moved back to A-ball in 2018. Loaisiga had a 4.32 ERA in six starts with the Tampa Tarpons before he was promoted to Trenton. He has been lights out in four games, but there’s a huge difference in dominating opponents in Double-A, when you’re somewhat old for the level, and still doing it at the major league level.
We have all seen our fair share of pitchers dominate at a lower level before getting blown up against more advanced competition. Look at Chance Adams for instance. The right-hander zipped through the system, much the same way Loaisiga has, by striking out batters and limiting walks. This year has been a different story, though. Just when it seemed he would be ready to help at the big league level, Adams has been torched in 12 starts for Scranton.
These two pitchers aren’t the same person, but seeing this happen to Adams should make the Yankees more wary of promoting Loaisiga when he has only a third of the innings under his belt. Instead of turning to a guy who has very little track record, despite all his success, there are options available that are far safer and more likely to work out.
Josh Rogers, who is also 23 years old, has thrown 300 innings in his professional career, and is currently pitching fairly well in Triple-A. He owns a 3.72 ERA and has shown the ability to throw strikes consistently. If I were in charge of making decisions for the Yankees, I would try out Rogers before I went with Loaisiga. Even if Loaisiga has the higher ceiling, Rogers has the experience, and has seen better talent more frequently.
The Yankees are clearly desperate to add another arm in the short-term, but Loaisiga is not the answer in 2018. Give him another year, and maybe we can talk in 2019. This team is in a position to win right now, so they need a better pitcher in the rotation. While there are a few in-house options to choose from, the Yankees still need to make a trade.