The battle for the final spot in the Yankees starting rotation is still up for grabs but there’s a clear favorite separating himself from the pack and it’s Jonathan Loaisiga.
Whenever Major League Baseball resumes operations and the regular season begins Jonathan Loasiga will more than likely be a part of the Yankees starting staff. He’s earned the opportunity based on how well he’s pitched up to this point in the spring.
Before spring training was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic he made his fifth appearance of exhibition play on Thursday against the Nationals. He allowed one run over three innings of work and struck out three. The only hit he allowed was a solo home run off the bat of Victor Robles. For the spring Loaisiga has now pitched 10 innings posting an ERA of 2.70 with 14 K’s and only one walk while limiting his opponents to a terrific .093 BA.
Loaisiga entered spring training as one of the favorites to win a rotation spot even though there are some within the Yankee organization who think he’d be a better fit out of the bullpen. Before he pitched a game this spring I also thought he’d be better off moving to the pen and taking on a role similar to the one Chad Green has filled over the past three seasons.
Late last season he looked unhittable at times pitching in relief featuring a 100 mph fastball in addition to a nasty slider and changeup. It’s one of the reasons why he was picked to make the Yankees postseason roster. Loaisiga has the type of stuff to dominate in a multi-inning role, but he might not have the stamina to get through a major league lineup two to three times.
In his eight career big-league starts, we’ve seen Loaisiga really struggle to pitch deep into games and put hitters away with two strikes. His control wasn’t nearly as good as it was in the minor leagues and he nibbled around the strike zone far too often instead of attacking hitters with his best stuff. That being said, I can’t ignore how dominant he’s looked throughout this spring and there’s no doubt he deserves at least one more chance to pitch as a starter.
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You also have to take into account how poorly his competition has pitched of late. Right-hander Mike King started the spring off strong but he’s been hit hard over his last two outings and only has one career game of big-league experience. Top pitching prospect Deivi Garcia has shown flashes of excellence but he’s not major league ready yet and the Yankees aren’t going to rush his development.
The same likely goes for Clarke Schmidt, the organization’s highest ranked pitching prospect just ahead of Garcia. He’s pitched really well this spring but has made only three career starts above Single-A ball for Double-A Trenton and he isn’t even on the Yanks 40-man roster.
Veteran Nick Tropeano hasn’t ptiched well enough to earn consideration and fellow non-roster invitee Chad Bettis hasn’t even pitched in a game yet. The next best option could be Luis Cessa who is coming off of a great outing on Wednesday but he hasn’t started a game for the Yankees since 2018 so it’s unclear what their plan for him is this season.
All this leaves Loaisiga as the heavy favorite to win the job and rightfully so. He’s earned another crack at making it as a starter and if it doesn’t work out the Yankees can always move him to the pen where he’ll have the chance to be a serious weapon for a long time.