Jonathan Loaisiga’s Up-and-Down 2019 was a Showcase for His Future [2019 Season Review]

Jonathan Loaisiga made his Major League debut in 2018, pitching in nine games for the Yankees before again succumbing to injury. He flashed the raw skills that made him the Yankees’ second-best prospect as rated by MLB Pipeline. The now-25-year-old righty once again made limited appearances in 2019, throwing 31.2 IP in 15 games (4 starts), with a 4.55 ERA (4.95 FIP), an 11.5% walk rate — but a 26.6% strikeout rate.

Loaisiga’s best performance of the year came on September 21 against the Blue Jays, when he struck out five Jays in two innings of relief work. Overall, Loaisiga is an enticing yet frustrating arm, but his up-and-down 2019 season is an indication that he’ll be someone to watch for 2020.

Let’s get right into it.

Starter vs. Reliever

In 2018 and in his first appearances in 2019, Loaisiga took the mound as a starter, as he has throughout he five year MiLB career. After briefly shining in 2018, he labored in this role in 2019. He returned in September as a 40-man call-up out of the bullpen, where he shined — and flashed potential for the future. Check out the differences between Starter Loaisiga and Reliever Loaisiga:

As Starter12.06.755.88.39312.1%24.1%
As Reliever19.

Obviously, the sample sizes here are tiny. Nevertheless, though, Loaisiga was better in relief: he missed more bats and induced better contact. It’s also worth mentioning that throughout the slightly larger set of his entire career, opponents against Loaisiga log a .677 OPS the first time they face him and a .966 OPS the second time. There could be something here…and there’s reason to believe that he could thrive in the bullpen.

Statcast Darling

That’s because Loaisiga is a Statcast darling. He has the type of stuff on which it is easy to dream. His average fastball in 2019 clocked in at 96.8 mph (95th percentile) with a spin rate of 2,422 rpm (84th percentile). Buttressing that velocity is a curveball that sits at 84 mph with a spin rate north of 2,800. To put that in perspective for a moment: 148 pitchers threw at least 150 curves at the MLB level in 2019. Loaisiga’s average spin rate ranked 24th, comparable to Justin Verlander’s (2,821). Seems pretty good.

When it’s all working, it looks like this:

And this:

His is the very definition of a high-spin, high-velocity curveball. The sampled pitches above came in at 86 and 88 mph, respectively. It’s also worth noting that both his fastball and curveball played up in 2019 — and, while the sample is small, I’m willing to bet that him being in relief had something to do with this. Airing it out, etc.

Walks, Walks, Walks

The big drawback to his game, of course, is a frustrating lack of control. He obviously walked a ton of batters (north of 11%) and in only five of his fifteen games did he manage not to walk a single batter. That is not good! However, if there was a bright spot, it’s this: four of those instances came in his final seven appearances of the year.

It’s not to say that Loaisiga “figured it out” or anything — but it’s clear that, with some more repeated playing time out of the pen, he reigned in his control a bit. That, coupled with his stuff, is an encouraging sign. But, you know, sample sizes and all that. We need to see more. But you don’t need to squint that hard to see the upside here.

Up Next

I am this blog’s official Jonathan Loaisiga Stan. I am absolutely in love with his stuff and his makeup, and I think he can be a really useful piece out of the bullpen over the course of a long year. In terms of what will happen next year, though, I’m not so sure. He probably doesn’t have the health to be a starter in the long term and the Yankees suddenly have pitching depth.

If it were me, I’d have Loaisiga prepare for 2020 as a reliever. Get used to throwing in short bursts every few days, etc. Let him air out his stuff and miss the hell out of big league bats. That’s probably the best way to maximize his value — and I hope we get to see if play out in 2020.


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  1. MikeD

    Position him where he can best help the team. Obvious answer, but it’s not as as simple as he’s a reliever or he’s a starter. I’m not on board with the conclusion he should prepare to be a reliever, even if that’s where he likely ends up long term. Go the Warren route. Have him come to camp prepared to start, and if all the starters are healthy and the pen is full, have him go to AAA and continue to start. His command issues are likely related to how little he’s pitched in pro ball. They can insert him in the bullpen at any point. History says that doesn’t require much transition. That’s not true the other direction.

  2. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    Lasagna does have a very bright future here, Bobby. Very bright. And we’re going to need him to shine now that Hal lost Dellin to the rival Mets. To me the Mets, the White Sox and the Jays have done the most to improve their clubs this offseason while we’ve sat around and watched them do it. The Mets got Carlos and Dellin, the White Sox got Edwin and Keuchel, the Jays got Ryu and Chance. And this doesn’t even mention the Phillies getting Girardi and the Tigers getting Romine.

    Ottavino cannot be relied upon in big games and that was proven last October. Boone only let him throw to one guy and he’d walk him. When he let him throw to more than one guy he’d give up hit after hit. Green looked gassed and ineffective all postsason. Kahnle, Britton, Chapman and somebody else is going to have to step up and that will be Lasagna. I thought Johnny was better in last year’s postseason than Ottavino. Lasagna can be that Ramiro Mendoza type guy that gives us 2-3 shutdown innings out of the pen. I just hope they don’t use him as the guy that comes in after the opener. That ran Nestor into the ground last year and that’s another guy lost that will come back to haunt us.

  3. RetroRob

    Lasagna, one of many fine options on Christmas Eve, hasa great arm no doubt. While I suspect Loaisigas is ticketed for the pen long-term, I’d have him AAA to start 2020. Keep him stretched, let him build innings, use him for spot starts for the big club. I wouldn’t make the conversion to the pen until we know for sure he can’t be a starter. Not there yet.

    • chip56


      The Yankees have a lot of starter options who will be in the AAA rotation: King, Garcia, Schmidt, Nelson and probably Montgomery or German.

      Let Johnny be a reliever.

    • MikeD

      RR, I think we’re almost saying the same thing, although maybe you’re looking at keeping him in AAA purely for developmental reasons and to use as a spot starter option in the majors as needed in 2020. Not sure. I’m not against that if they can make that work, meaning the need for another bullpen arm trumps the need for another starter. I’d let it sort itself out, and the best way to do that is to keep Loaisiga prepared to be a starter, allowing him to step into either role.

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