For the past few years, Luis Cessa and Domingo German have served as mostly up-and-down starters and occasionally as multi-inning relievers. Both pitchers have found different levels of success in these roles, but it generally hasn’t worked. Now, both pitchers are out of options and can’t be sent down to the minors without being subjected to waivers. With a couple of spots potentially opening up in the bullpen, the Yankees could do well to try out both Cessa and German as single-inning relievers.
The best reason for this might be, “why not?” Cessa simply hasn’t shown any kind of consistency as a Yankee pitcher, and he’s running out of time to stick on the roster. He has been primarily used as a spot starter and multi-inning reliever, and for one reason or another, it just hasn’t worked. However, he’s shown enough to at least give him a try in the bullpen.
Given his repertoire, this could work for him. Forget trying to turn a lineup over multiple times and just let the fastball fly. As a multi-inning pitcher, he averaged about 95 mph with the heater and touched 99 mph with it just a season ago. He doesn’t generate too many swings-and-misses with the pitch, but he does have a better-than-average groundball rate. Cessa could easily use his slider as a put away pitch. A high majority of Cessa’s strikeouts come from the pitch, and opponents only slugged .356 against his slider this season.
Cessa’s 2018 ERA was 5.24, but he wasn’t as ineffective as that statistic might seem. He was better than league average in HR/9 and BB/9 and posted a 3.74 FIP. As a reliever this season, Cessa averaged one strikeout per inning, and he kept runners off the bases, holding hitters to a .295 OBP against. Time’s almost up for Luis Cessa in pinstripes, and he has the tools to possibly make a career in the bullpen. Now’s the time to try.
The case for using Domingo German as a reliever is much stronger than Cessa’s. German profiles as the prototypical starter-turned-reliever. He’s got great stuff, but between injuries and command issues, he hasn’t been able to put it all together. The flashes of brilliance he’s shown in short stints could translate into a really solid career as a relief pitcher.
Even as a starter, German’s fastball can be one of the best in the game. Hitters swing through his fastball on a much better than average rate. In terms of velocity, his fastball sits about 95 mph, but he can run it up to 99 mph. In terms of spin, German’s fastball is one of the best in the league, and is comparable to Aroldis Chapman’s. When his fastball is on, it’s one of the best in the game.
Similar praise can be given to his sinker, which generates an above average amount of swings-and-misses and has comparable velocity to his fastball. Combining these two pitches with a swing-and-miss curveball, and German has the tools to be an extremely effective relief pitcher.
German’s biggest problem this season though was his first inning, which doesn’t exactly bode well for a relief pitcher. In the first inning this season, hitters slashed .325/.416/.575 against German. It often took some time for him to settle into games, though those numbers did improve when he pitched out of the pen. It’ll be important that he doesn’t let those jitters get to him if he becomes a full-time reliever.
The Yankees have nothing to lose if they try the bullpen route with either pitcher. We’ve seen how ineffective both pitchers can be. If they find success in the bullpen, great. If not, no big deal. There’s always the chance the Yankees keep both after exposing them to waivers, and they’d still be able to serve as depth arms. If they’re exposed to waivers and lost, then it means the Yankees lost two ineffective pitchers. There’s also the possibility both pitchers could be shipped out of town via trade. Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos turned into Luke Voit and international bonus pool money. Snagging a player as effective as Voit isn’t likely to happen again but it never hurts to play the lottery every once in a while.
The Yankees can’t lose regardless of which path they take here. Cessa and German can’t serve as spot starters anymore, so they might as well give both pitchers auditions as one-inning relievers.