The Yankee rotation was dealt a tough blow on Tuesday when it was revealed that Luis Severino has a Grade 2 lat strain and will be shut down for 6-weeks. The earliest we can expect Severino back is sometime in July, and that’s assuming there aren’t any more setbacks. Regardless of the high expectations the Yankees had coming into this season, when you are suddenly missing your ace for that length of time, someone has to step up or the prospect of winning 95+ games suddenly starts to slip away.
Enter Domingo German.
German was originally acquired way back in 2014 as part of the Nathan Eovaldi trade with the Marlins. He was a raw 22-year old kid at the time whose recent success at the A-ball level earned him a trip to the Futures Game. The Marlins wanted Garret Jones and his salary dumped in this trade, so the rebuilding Yankees insisted on the inclusion of Domingo German with Jones. These are the types of moves rebuilding teams are supposed to make. The Yankees’ farm system was barren at the time, and German provided at least a chance of future rotation production. He slotted in as the Yankees #7 prospect at the time, according to MLB pipeline. It’s not like German was always a cant-miss prospect. He was non-tendered and then resigned in December of 2015. Garret Jones, on the other hand, produced -0.5 WAR for the 2015 Yankees before being released. Yikes.
The Stuff Is There
Reading through some old scouting reports of German, a few things stood out to me that I want to pick apart:
“German’s fastball is a power sinker that sits in the 91-94 mph zone.”
For one, German uses his sinker a lot less now. It’s not his primary fastball anymore. He used it about 17% of the time in 2018, while deploying his four-seamer about 30% of the time, according to Fangraphs. German has added a grade or two to his fastball since 2014 as well. We’ve seen him work mostly in the 93-96 mph range, but what stands out to me is the average fastball velocity. Here is his average four seam velocity last year:
Keep in mind this is average velocity per game. During games there will be some 96’s and some 92’s, but the fact that he is averaging 94 is significant improvement from when the Yankees acquired him. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a player come over to the Yankees system and improve their velocity. I’m sure a lot of this can be attributed to maturing physically, but there is something to be said about the Yankees’ ability to tinker with deliveries and arm slots to get the most velocity out of their players.
“His best secondary offering is his above-average changeup, and he has an advanced feel for the offspeed pitch already”
This doesn’t surprise me. German’s changeup is very good and it was probably his best offspeed pitch when the Yankees acquired him. When German was in the minors, he used this as his out-pitch. Now that his curveball has improved, his changeup is used to steal an occasional strike and to keep hitters off balance. When he’s going right, German can bury this pitch down and away from lefties and also use it to keep righties from sitting on his fastball. Last season, German allowed a .354 wOBA against lefties, while holding righties to a .312 wOBA. The changeup is probably his third best offering at this point, and it needs to continue to improve if he wants to have the same level of success against lefties that he’s had against righties in his career. This season, his changeup has already been worth 1.4 runs above average, so we’ll see if he can continue that moving forward.
“German’s slider is a work in progress, thrown at 81-84 mph, but it’s still a little too slurvy at the moment. “
This is where the scouting report gets interesting. Every pitch tracker I found says that German has ditched his slider and throws more of a curveball nowadays. It’s either a slow slider or a fast curveball. Either way, he uses this pitch about 35% of the time. One of the best ways to judge the effectiveness of a pitch is by looking at whiff rates, the percentage of times a batter swings and misses at a particular pitch. Last year German generated a 41.3% whiff rate on his curveball. To put that into perspective, Luis Severino had a 37.4% whiff rate on his slider. So yeah, German’s curveball is good.
This is a pretty good case study on how pitchers can improve over the years. His changeup was already decent, add a few ticks to your fastball, scrap a below average pitch and replace it with an above average pitch, and all of a sudden you’re looking like a middle of the rotation starter. The last piece of the puzzle for German is refining his control. He is a pretty lanky guy, and his delivery can get out of whack if he starts rushing. This is one of those things that will hopefully get better with time and experience. All of the tools are there for German to take the next step. It will be exciting to see if the Yankees have found another high quality righty to add to their pitching staff of the future.