MLB, New York Yankees

Yankees need to exercise caution with Jonathan Loaisiga

Jonathan Loaisiga has a bright future in the Yankees rotation, but the organization can’t afford to rely on him too much this season.

Injuries to Luis Severino and CC Sabathia have opened up two spots in the New York Yankees’ rotation to start the 2019 regular season. It’s easy to see why the organization might be tempted to put Jonathan Loaisiga into one of those two openings, but the best thing for his long-term future is to start the season in the minors.

The issue certainly isn’t Loaisiga’s talent. He arguably has the best pure stuff in the system outside of Severino and James Paxton. That may seem like hyperbole to some, but there’s a reason he was able to rocket through the Yankees system so quickly in 2018.

Instead, it’s a matter of experience. The 24-year-old right hander has only thrown 159.2 innings in his entire professional career. The most he’s ever thrown in one single season came last year when he threw 80.2 between three separate minor league stops and nine games with the Yankees.

A variety of injuries have caused him to miss significant time during his career. They have prevented Loaisiga from building up the arm strength to handle the 150+ innings the Yankees would like to see out each of their starting pitchers.

The good news is that manager Aaron Boone and the Yankees’ brain trust seem to understand the limitations that need to be placed on their prospect. Boone recently told the media that he feels Loaisiga can pitch over 100 innings this season, but the team will need to be “smart” about his workload.

He went on to discuss the possibility of Loaisiga pitching in the bullpen for the Yankees this season, but Boone stated a clear preference to keep him built up as a starter. That almost certainly means that Loaisiga won’t be able to pitch the full season at any level if he’s able to stay healthy.

That’s precisely why starting him in the major league rotation would be a mistake. If the Yankees elect to go that route, they’re making a choice that he can’t be an option for the team down the stretch unless he’s shut down for a significant period of time during the season. It’s very difficult to get a pitcher turned back on when you put him on the shelf like that.

The right move for the organization will be to let Luis Cessa, Domingo German and the newly-signed Gio Gonzalez fight it out for the two rotation spots to open the year. None of the three have the high ceiling that makes pitching Loaisiga so tempting, but each is capable of shouldering a much heavier workload in 2019.

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As such, Yankees fans who desperately want to see Loaisiga break through in a big way this season should be disappointed. He’s too important for the team’s future to overwork this season.

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