Continuing The Times-Tribune’s annual countdown of the top 15 Yankees prospects. I rank 20 prospects, Donnie Collins ranks 20 prospects, and then we average them together. The list takes into account ETA for the big leagues. You’re going to find some guys who might not have ceilings as high as others, but who instead could be in a position to help the Yankees sooner. Since they’re so new to pro baseball, 2018 draftees are not included on the list.
Though he’s yet to reach 200 innings in a career that began in 2013, Jonathan Loaisiga jumped from Double-A to the big leagues last year. With the stuff he has, that’s not a surprise.
Position: Starting pitcher
Acquired: Signed by the Yankees as a minor league free agent Feb. 9, 2016. Originally signed by the San Francisco Giants as a nondrafted free agent Sept. 13, 2012, out of Nicaragua.
SWB ETA: 2019
Began the season at High-A Tampa and made quick work of the level, allowing three runs over four starts (20 innings) while striking out 26 and walked one. He went 3-1 at Double-A with a 3.93 ERA, striking out 40 and walking six in 34.1 innings. He made his major league debut June 15 against Tampa Bay and allowed three hits over five scoreless innings. He ran off four strong starts before hitting the disabled list July 5. He didn’t return to the big leagues until rosters expanded in September. His final big league numbers: 2-0, 5.11 ERA, 24.2 innings, three homers, 12 walks and 33 strikeouts.
Here are some videos of Loaisiga:
Below, Donnie and I discuss why Loaisiga lands at No. 3 on the list, what’s good about him and what might need work.
CF: So full disclosure, this guy got my vote for the No. 1 prospect in the system. He’s not without his flaws, though honestly, most of those are tied to his health, and rightly so. He’s been a pro since 2013 and he’s yet to reach 200 innings for his career. He didn’t pitch at all in 2014 or 2015. Last year, he threw 80.2 innings, so even though he’s healthy this year, you’d think he’ll be on some sort of innings count. That being said, when he’s pitching, it’s impressive. Fastball in the mid to upper 90s. Good slider. A high-spin curve — that he doesn’t throw much. And the kind of changeup you dream about. There’s so much to like. As long as he stays healthy.
DC: Which he has never done. And I do think that’s important here. It’s not like he’s a 19-year-old who had Tommy John last year or someone who had a shoulder surgery. He just hasn’t been able to stay healthy, for myriad reasons. Even last year, he couldn’t consistently build anything. He has great stuff. No question. Maybe elite stuff. But I ranked him much lower than you did for that reason. I don’t know that he possibly can stay healthy.
CF: No question it’s an issue. He’s not very big — 5-11, 165 — and part of his game is throwing hard. But there’s a bunch of guys on this list who have health concerns (spoiler alert: the two remaining guys are currently hurt), so I chose not to hold it against him as much. Who knows, maybe he never gets hurt again. Maybe he does. But in terms of pure potential and also someone who can help the team this year, few can be as impactful as Loaisiga. He jumped from Double-A to the majors last season and opened his career by allowing six runs in his first four starts with 21 strikeouts and eight walks in 17.1 innings. His third start at Philadelphia, he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. (And then after those four starts, he got hurt …). He’s shown he has the talent to make it up there. I’ll bet on that.
DC: I don’t think the stuff can be debated. He’s 95-97, in that area. He should throw that curve more, because it’s good. And his change plays. But he’s small and pitched in a career high 14 games last year. I can’t go crazy over that. My guess is he’ll wind up settling into the bullpen down the road, and he’ll be a solid reliever. But I think that’s what he can handle physically. The difference with him and the others you’re talking about is, he always seems to have an injury issue during a season. And he’s older than the others. How does he develop into a starter — and that’s where the stuff indicates he should be and where he provides the most impact — if he can’t consistently start? Last thing I want is for anyone to think I don’t love his potential. I do. He can be great. But he has to prove he can stay out there.
CF: He’s not too old — he’s going to play the whole season as a 24-year-old — but yeah, you’re probably right. He’s got five years on Deivi Garcia and Garcia’s not all that far behind him. But it wouldn’t be the first time an injury-prone guy has stopped getting injured. If he ever lasted a full season, he’d be a top 50 prospect in the game, maybe even higher. It’ll be interesting so see how the Yankees handle his workload this year, because he’s got to have some real innings restrictions on him. He’s a perfect candidate to use an opener with when he’s in New York. When he’s in the minors, do they cap his starts at five innings? Do they move him out of the rotation at some point to make sure he’s available come October? If so, when does that happen?
DC: They have to really manage the innings, for sure. But the issue is, it’s kind of putting the cart before the horse. He has to stay healthy for it to matter. He has never thrown a lot of innings. All in all, though, let’s credit Brian Cashman and the scouting department again. They found a guy who was in the Giants organization, got hurt, got cut, needed Tommy John surgery…and they wound up with a really intriguing prospect.
15: Phillip Diehl (Traded to Colorado on March 23)
14: Stephen Tarpley
13: Garrett Whitlock
12: Nick Nelson
11: Albert Abreu
10: Luis Medina
9: Roansy Contreras
8: Thairo Estrada
7: Trevor Stephan
6: Clarke Schmidt
5: Deivi Garcia
4: Kyle Holder
3: Jonathan Loaisiga
Photo: Associated Press