The Yankees‘ bullpen ranks in the top five in baseball on a yearly basis, but the front office is still keen on adding more pieces. The team was connected to Houston Astros star relief pitcher Hector Neris on Saturday, with Mark Feinsand of MLB.com going as far as to say they are “front runners.”
Neris is coming off a tremendous season with the Astros and would certainly bolster the Yankees’ bullpen. However, they have internal options that remain extremely valuable. In fact, if the Yankees can finally get a healthy version of Jonathan Loaisiga, the unit’s upside may actually be maximized.
Not many are valuing Loaisiga based on his injury history, but when he is healthy and pitching up the top of his game, there aren’t many arms that beat his level of production.
This past season, he pitched just 17.2 innings, recording a 3.06 ERA, a 70.4% left-on-base rate, and a 53.3% ground-ball rate. Loaisiga is a heavy ground ball producer and generates weak contact, but he’s not known for his strikeout numbers. His best season came back in 2021 when he posted a 2.17 ERA across 70.2 innings pitched.
Fortunately, his velocity hasn’t seen that much of a reduction. In fact, it’s actually hovered around 98 mph, right in line with his best year as a professional.
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The Yankees Need a Big Year From Loaisiga
Injury has taken its toll, but a one-year, $2.5 million deal to avoid arbitration gives the Yankees a high-upside arm with the talent to make positive contributions.
Loaisiga features a sinker, curveball, and change-up combination. His sinker produced a .224 batting average this past season, but his curveball is something truly special, not allowing a hit over five at-bats. Of course, the sample size is small, but he has a nasty combination of pitches and when healthy, can be utilized in high-leverage situations.
On paper, the Yankees bullpen has a ton of exciting arms, including Clay Holmes, Ian Hamilton, the return of Scott Effross, Loaisiga, and many more. Adding Neris to the equation would be exciting, especially since the starting rotation has a few questions and injury concerns.
Of course, fans are always looking for improvements to bolster the team’s upside, but the Yankees’ bullpen might be the best in baseball, it is just a matter of maximizing potential.