New York Yankees right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga made his major league debut yesterday against the Tampa Bay Rays, throwing five shutout innings, giving up three hits and four walks but fanning six. It was an impressive debut and several people have asked my opinion on him, so here it is.
Born in Nicaragua, Loaisiga was originally signed by the San Francisco Giants but was released in 2015 after missing two years with various injuries. The Yankees picked him up as a free agent in 2016 but he promptly got hurt again and had to have Tommy John surgery.
He came back in 2017 and pitched effectively in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues, enough to get him onto the prospect charts. Loaisiga ranked 18th on the pre-season New York Yankees Top 20 Prospects for 2018 list with this comment:
18) Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, originally in San Francisco Giants system Nicaraguan right-hander signed with Yankees as a free agent in 2016; posted 1.38 ERA in 33 innings between rookie ball and New York-Penn League with 33/3 K/BB, earning spot on 40-man roster; throws strikes with fastball up to 96 and a plus curveball; need to see at higher levels but an intriguing arm. ETA 2020.
The ETA was obviously wrong as he’s in the majors now following a very rapid rise this spring. He threw 45 innings over 10 starts in High-A and Double-A, posting a 3.00 ERA with a spectacular 58/4 K/BB. The Yankees saw enough to skip him past Triple-A.
Loaisiga isn’t a big guy at 5-11, 165, but he has no shortage of arm strength, working with a fastball that can hit 98 and a plus breaking ball. His change-up isn’t quite as consistent as the curve but he projects as a starter. Although he walked four in his MLB debut his command and control where one of his best attributes in the minors and this will likely be true in the majors as well once he gets a bit more experience.
Grade-wise, the pre-season C+ made sense for a guy who was in the New York-Penn League last year but is certainly too low right now. I think he’s at least a Grade B and you can make a case for more.