Yankees need Ian Hamilton to be Michael King replacement without Loaisiga

Sep 25, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Ian Hamilton (71) walks from the
Sep 25, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Ian Hamilton (71) walks from the / John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Anything can change in a New York minute, right?

Last week, it was reported that New York Yankees’ reliever Jonathan Loáisiga would undergo season-ending UCL surgery. 

“Obviously, it’s tough news. The first thought is just for him, you feel for him,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told the New York Post. “He’s been throwing the ball so well. He’s dealt with some things over the last years that I think added up to this point."

Prior to the injury, Loáisiga had tossed four scoreless innings of baseball to start 2024. The right-hander was supposed to be the bullpen’s (distance-providing) setup man after Michael King was dealt to the San Diego Padres as part of the trade for Juan Soto.

Now, it may be time for Ian Hamilton to step up. His blend of pitches could serve him well if he’s able to stay healthy and consistent through a more rigorous workload.  

Yankees reliever Ian Hamilton must ascend to Michael King's throne

Hamilton burst onto the scene last season, recording a 2.64 ERA across a career-high 58 innings. He’s primed to receive more opportunities this season, and although he’s been streaky to start the campaign, faltering against the Blue Jays in a wild Saturday night affair, the ability is clearly there.

According to Baseball Savant, the 28-year-old currently ranks in the 89th percentile in terms of chase % and the 76th percentile in terms of ground ball %. Obviously, this season’s sample size is still quite small, but it’s evident that he can pitch to contact and hunt strikeouts when necessary.

During New York’s April 3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, Hamilton tossed 2.2 innings, induced a ground ball, struck out four batters, and helped create a key double play. Another part of what makes that game stand out early is that the Dover native entered the contest with two runners on base. 

Hamilton’s pitch mix is lethal. He carries a fastball, slider, and sinker. The combination is similar to that of Michael King, who boasts a sinker, fastball, sweeper, and changeup. It’s not outlandish to think Hamilton could be what King was for the Yankees last season. In fact, the velocity on Hamilton’s fastball and sinker is comparable, if not better.

Other relievers like Nick Burdi, Caleb Ferguson, and Victor González have had nice moments to start the year, but since they are all new additions to the team, manager Aaron Boone may be more comfortable handing the ball to Hamilton, who’s been with the team for a longer period of time.

The former 11th-round pick has found a home in the Yankees’ bullpen, and if he is able to stay healthy and consistent, he may be asked to replace King and Loaisiga as the team’s setup man.