My Favorite Young Yankee: Jonathan Loáisiga
We’re all mostly familiar with the Yankee starters. But I’ve always found the new kids most interesting. I love tracking them through the minors and rooting for them to succeed in the bigs. I decided to write a brief post on my favorite young Yankee, Jonathan Loáisiga.
The first reason I love Loáisiga, to be honest, is his nickname. I generally don’t like players whose names I can’t spell (which is generally more a problem with the New York Football Giants). But in this case, his hard to pronounce and spell last name was replaced by one of the coolest nicknames in recent Yankee history and the legend of Johnny Lasagna was born.
The second thing I love about Johnny Lasagna is his measurables. Stat guys love measurables. According to MLB’s Baseball Savant, Johnny’s fastball is in the 89th percentile in terms of velocity and, more exciting because it’s the new cool stat, in the 75th percentile in terms of spin rate. Being that high in either one is rare, being that high in two is very, very rare. On a pure “stuff” basis, he’s elite. On top of that, his curveball is in the 86th percentile in terms of spin rate.
Johnny had an interesting 24 ⅔ innings for the Yankees in 2018. He jumped from AA to play in 9 games with 4 starts. His ERA was somewhat ugly at 5.11 but there is a statistic called xFIP which showed significant promise. xFIP basically an ERA measure that strips out luck, park effects and defense. In any case, Johnny’s xFIP was 2.95 (2.80 as a starter). The only AL starting pitcher under 3.00 for the season was Carlos Carrasco at 2.90. This is a small sample size, of course, but still, that’s pretty impressive for a rookie in his first appearance in the bigs. How did he do this? He struck out a ton of people. 12.04 per 9 innings. His control was meh with 4.38 walks per 9. That’s not surprising for a rookie, of course.
The big issue with Lasagna has been durability, or the lack thereof. He’s only 5 foot 11 and 165 pounds. That’s lot of stress on a body that small. His total innings pitched have been:
2016: 2 ⅓
2017 32 ⅔
2018 80 2/3
Yeah, Lou Gehrig he isn’t.
I have no idea if Lasagna can be a starter long term. There are not a lot of short starter Pedro Martinez success stories in the majors. Maybe he moves to the pen. Maybe he can only pitch 10 times a year. But in any case, raw talent like that is fun to watch and follow.