Jonathan Loaisiga Comes A Long Way In A Short Time
With second baseman Gleyber Torres and third baseman Miguel Andujar producing as rookies in the big leagues, the honor falls to 23-year-old outfielder Clint Frazier, who has shown ability at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre that the Yankees believe will translate to the Bronx.
"He has performed very well,’’ vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring said of Frazier, who appeared in 39 big league games last season and three this year. "I would strongly consider him (the best player). He has hit and played left and center field.’’
Frazier missed extensive time early in spring training after suffering a concussion when he hit his head against a fence in Bradenton, Fla., but that didn't seem to affect him when he returned to action the International League on May 1. Through 38 games for Scranton he hit .312/.389/.558 with seven home runs.
Frazier knew the Yankees were set in the outfield when he reported to spring training. Brett Gardner was in left, Frazier’s best position, with Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton also in the mix.
Yet, Frazier was determined to fight his way onto the roster, and he didn't sulk when his concussion sidelined him. He just got healthy and produced.
BIGGEST LEAP FORWARD
Righthander Jonathan Loaisiga completed his improbable climb from being out of baseball in 2015 to the big leagues in 2018, when he made his debut for the Yankees on June 15.
The 23-year-old had made just 12 appearances in the Yankees' system entering the year, none above low Class A Charleston, and he had virtually his entire 2016 season wiped out by Tommy John surgery. The Giants originally signed Loaisiga out of Nicaragua in 2012 but released him after an injury-plagued 2014.
While pitching at high Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this year, he went 6-1, 3.00 in 10 starts, striking out 58 and walking four in 45 innings.
"His strikeout-to-walk (ratio) is as special as it gets,’’ Naehring said of Loaisiga, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 165 pounds.
Last fall, when Loaisiga threw in an instructional league game, scouts from other organizations showed up and witnessed a mid-90s fastball. That prompted Naehring to call Brian Cashman and tell the general manager that Loaisiga should be added to the 40-man roster to shield him from the Rule 5 draft.
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** The Yankees are also pleased with the progress shown by 22-year-old righthander Trevor Stephan, the 2017 third-rounder out of Arkansas who had advanced to Double-A. Through four starts he recorded a 3.15 ERA with 24 strikeouts and six walks in 20 innings. "He has thrown 96 (mph) at Double-A," Naehring said, "and with his slider and changeup has a three-pitch mix. He has moved quickly.’’
** Righthander Erik Swanson had also shined at Trenton and Scranton before landing on the disabled list in June. Acquired from the Rangers in the 2016 Carlos Beltran trade, the 24-year-old Swanson worked 65.1 innings while allowing 46 hits with 81 strikeouts and 17 walks.