Analysis MLB

Jonathan Loaisiga: The Yankees’ Next Opener

While Jonathan Loaisiga may not be a polished starter, he’s definitely shown to be a great opener for the New York Yankees.

It can kind of seem like the Yankees have a stuffed rotation right now, and Jonathan Loaisiga seems without a spot anywhere. The New York Yankees have had a stretch of great arms for the opener/bullpen role. I cannot overstate how dominant the Yankees bullpen has been. Since 2010 they’ve ranked 2nd in ERA, 5th in FIP, 1st in xFIP, and 1st in SIERA. It can be attributed to great acquisitions like Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman, but they’ve something very special. They’ve had multiple converted starters become relievers and be big for the Yankees, as they’re one of the best bullpen developers in the league. Guys like Dellin Betances, Chad Green, and Luis Cessa have become some of the mainstays of the 2010s Yankees, and they may have their next big hit.

Meet Jonathan Loaisiga, the New York Yankees next star reliever, but this time as an Opener.

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Fireballing Righty

So far in Loaisiga’s career, we’ve seen him sport a 3.76 xFIP and 3.95 SIERA which are solid numbers, but they could be even better if properly utilized.  A lot of his success can be attributed to his fantastic arm. The New York Yankees have a boatload bullpen of guys who can throw heat, and yet Loaisiga still ranks near the top in fastball velocity as he sports a 96.8 MPH on average. Only Gerrit Cole and Aroldis Chapman, two of the best pitchers in all of baseball, throw harder than him on the Yankees staff. Overall he’s 36th out of 608 qualifying pitchers in fastball velocity, so you know he’s really good at throwing gas. There’s nothing quite like a pitcher who packs a punch in their fastball, and Loaisiga’s heater can blow by unprepared sluggers.

Similar Control Issues

Both Jonathan Loasiga and Dellin Betances had control issues that made it hard to give them innings as a starter. Both sport a BB/9 over 4, which highlights their tendency to have long at-bats and give up walks. I think you’ll see Loasiga be effective in small bursts with his velocity like Betances did. Chad Green didn’t have this control issue but he had a home run problem, something that was curbed by limiting the number of times a batter faces you.

The question fans can have is that is it too soon for Loaisiga to become just an opener?

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Struggles After the First Trip

Opposing batters hit for a .348 SLG% and a 60 tOPS when they only had 1 PA against Loaisiga. The issues begin after the first go around. After the 2nd PA, it spikes to a .620 SLG and a 153 tOPS+. So why not have him be a reliever? That’s when Jonathan Loaisiga STARTS a game, when he’s in relief he gets rocked in the first go around. I’d have him open a bullpen game similar to his start against the Nationals which was a success. There is a lot of promise in Jonathan Loaisiga as an opener as he can come in and face 9 or 10 batters and then hand it over to the bullpen.

I think the New York Yankees are using Jonathan Loaisiga properly now in the opener role. If they want to have another success story out of a failed starting pitcher, then that’s where he should stay.

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