Up next in the countdown is Jonathan Loaisiga, who has a bit of came-out-of-nowhere to him. Maybe that’s because he’s only pitched in 12 games for the Yankees, missed time with Tommy John surgery and didn’t pitch at all from 2014-2015. But when the Yankees add a guy who’s pitched 2.1 innings in a full-season league to an already jammed 40-man roster, you take notce pretty quickly.
Weight: 165 pounds
Acquired: Signed as a minor league free agent Feb. 9, 2016, after he was released by San Francisco in 2015.
Coming off Tommy John surgery, Loaisiga pitched to a 1.38 ERA in 32.2 innings between the Gulf Coast League and short-season Staten Island. The good numbers don’t end there. He struck out 33, walked only three, held batters to a .148 average and posted a miniscule .61 WHIP. All 11 of his appearances were starts, though only six lasted at least three innings. His best work came at Staten Island, where he was 1-0 with a 0.53 ERA in 17 innings. He ended his season with a five-inning, scoreless postseason start, where he allowed four hits, walked one and struck out four.
This is something a little bit different than what’s been done with this list. Below, Donnie Collins and I discuss why Loaisiga lands at No. 14, what we like about him and what might need some work.
CF: Jonathan Loaisiga is up next. I’ll be honest: this is maybe the guy I know the least about on our list. Maybe that’s because he’s only pitched in 12 games in the Yankees system. But when someone is added to the 40-man after 12 games, I guess that forces you to take notice pretty quickly.
DC: Someone on Twitter alerted me to him last July. That was honestly the first time I had ever heard of him, but it’s not like I can blame myself for that. He has had a complicated injury history and has missed seasons, not just extended time during a season. But when he does pitch, he does it all. Great stuff. Great command.
CF: Yeah, the numbers definitely stand out on paper, but with such a limited resume, it’s tough to know if the numbers are real or not. I went back and watched his spring outing against the Braves. I get it. His delivery is easy, the fastball looks like it plays up and the curveball isn’t your regular curveball. It’s straight up and down with a sharp, sharp break. And with the way he throws his fastball and curveball — I didn’t think there was much variation in his release points or delivery — I can see why a changeup would work, too.
DC: From what I’ve seen on YouTube and places like that, his curveball is easily his best pitch. I can’t imagine a better breaking ball at the level of the minors he was in. It explains those numbers a bit. Generally in the GCL and the NY-Penn League, you get really young hitters, or kids right out of college. They wouldn’t have seen a pitch like that except on the most rare of occasions. And they probably won’t hit it often, which is maybe why Loaisiga had a crazy K rate last year, more than 27 percent, and hardly walked anybody. The questions with him have to be 1.) his health and 2.) whether his changeup becomes a consistent pitch. They might be better off just going fastball/curve and working him out of the pen.
CF: Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. He’s only started games in his career — of course, we’re talking two-inning outings here — but in the game against the Braves, he looked so comfortable in a one-inning stint. You’d have to love that fastball/curve combo with a simple delivery in a reliever. What do you think about the early 40-man add? Are the Yankees that in love with him? Or is it just a case that they want a longer look and didn’t want to lose him to the Rule 5?
DC: I want to address both of those points, because the fact that he does look so free and easy on the mound actually worries me a little. How is this guy getting hurt so often? He’s not a guy you look at and think he’s a Tommy John waiting to happen, yet he’s coming off a Tommy John from 2016. He actually has the two fastballs, and while he does run the 4-seamer to 95, he uses the two-seamer a lot, and his change isn’t a bad pitch. So, his stuff is kind of a starter’s repertoire with the curve. I don’t know if I’d be so quick to throw him to the pen, except I’d be worried about his health if I don’t. As for the 40-man thing, I’d never have added him. I guess the Yanks basically suggesting he was a no-brainer says something, and he does have really fine stuff. But man, to claim a guy in the Rule 5 AND keep him, you have to store him on the big league roster. That kind of guy is difficult to hide, and let’s face it, there are guys with this type of stuff out there in AAA who could have been had in the Rule 5. Maybe there’s more than we’re seeing in very brief doses. The Yanks wouldn’t have kept him unless they loved what he brings. But honestly, was he going to get taken? And kept? I doubt that.
CF: I wonder if, going forward, they’re going to be a little more protective of the lower-level guys after what happened with Luis Torrens. They probably thought he would surely be returned to them, but right team in the right situation and now he’s a Padre for good. So, I think there is something to adding him to the 40-man. Although, the clock now starts ticking pretty quickly for a 23-year-old who only threw 32.2 innings last year. With how protective the Yankees are of TJ guys’ innings limits, you have to wonder if a future with the Yankees as a starter is even in the cards.
DC: I can’t see it. They have to be looking at him as strictly a reliever, and one who they would be considering advancing quickly through the system. And he’s the type of guy who can do that if he’s healthy. Throws hard. Throws strikes. Has an out pitch. On the surface, I like him better than the guys who have filled that role in the system to some degree in seasons past, the Pinders and the Holders. Stuff-wise, mechanics-wise, Loaisiga reminds me of a young David Robertson. And it’s difficult with all the questions and concerns and mystery around the guy to not consider someone with that type of stuff a really good prospect who can help soon. Even though my gut says to be very careful.
CF: I was going to say Robertson, too!
DC: Fastball/curveball. And if the curve is the better pitch, that was exactly Robertson’s ticket.
CF: Fun fact: Baseball Almanac says there have only been 14 big leaguers who were born in Nicaragua. (Loaisiga was born in Managua, Nicaragua)
Associated Press file photo