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Domingo German has a shot to stick in the Yankees rotation

German struggled to this point in his career, but he’s on the cusp of something good.

MLB: New York Yankees-Media Day Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has changed for Domingo German this past month. At the beginning of spring training, he had an outside shot at starting the year in the majors, but that was before Luis Severino went down with a shoulder injury. Now, it’s all but certain German will begin the year on the 25-man roster and in the starting rotation. A couple of bad breaks around Yankee camp have afforded him another shot of sticking in the big leagues for good, and if he performs well enough, there’s a good chance Yankee fans see a lot more of Domingo German in the coming years.

There’s definitely a lot to like about German even if he hasn’t been a dominant big league pitcher thus far. He boasts four above-average offerings. His fastball consistently sits in the mid-90’s with a truly elite spin rate. His average spin rate of 2498 RPM was best on the 2018 Yankees and put him in the 95th percentile around the league. He also uses a two-seamer -- sometimes called a sinker -- pretty consistently, which has similar speed and spin as his four-seamer but much stronger horizontal break

As for offspeed pitches, German’s curveball and changeup both generate an above average number of swings-and-misses. All together, German has four swing-and-miss pitches that have done serious damage against major-league lineups. German’s 14.9% swinging strike rate was just below Jacob deGrom and Blake Snell (15.1%) but just ahead of Justin Verlander (14.5%).

Let’s not forget German’s first start last year. He went six no-hit innings against the Cleveland Indians, walking just two and striking out nine. When his stuff is working, German can perform at an extremely high level, but the problem, of course, is that his stuff doesn’t always work. For all the good in German’s repertoire, he’s shown bouts of inconsistency: an ERA north of 5, a below average groundball rate, heaps of homers. German’s 1.6 HR/9 and 3.5 BB/9 rates put him in some pretty poor company. Only Matt Moore, Martin Perez, and Tyler Mahle put up both worse homer and walk rates last season.

Effective pitchers can walk guys on occasion or yield the odd home run, but a pitcher can’t really do both and still play well. There’s a chance German’s poor performance in these aspects of the game can be chalked up to sample size noise or bad luck, but regardless, German won’t stick around in the rotation for any significant amount of time if those issues persist throughout 2019.

It would also appear German is making strides to fix the issues that plagued him last season. Sung Min Kim recently pointed out German has changed his hand position and posture on the mound. Early returns on these changes do seem positive, as German has started off his spring on the right foot.

He’s only appeared in three games and logged 7.2 innings. Still, he’s kept the ball in the ballpark and has only issued one free pass. He’s certainly outperforming Jonathan Loaisiga right now, who is German’s primary competition for the fourth starter spot. If the improvements with command and/or home runs are real, German has the raw stuff to be a scarily good pitcher.

With one more minor-league option remaining, we are still a season away from talking about German’s last chance with the Yankees. However, this could be the last season he’s worked as a starter. If he doesn’t put it together in 2019, the bullpen could soon become his primary home, but with some improvements, he might just find a permanent spot in the Yankee rotation.