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Yankees 2020 Season Preview: Domingo German

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Can German re-establish himself after a career-defining mistake?

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The Yankees dealt with a flurry of injuries in 2019, and that let them give starting time to a lot of players hanging around in the upper levels of their minor leagues. One such player was Domingo German, and he quickly elevated himself to the top of the starting rotation. German at one point was the Yankees best pitcher, and wound up leading the team in wins.

However, German’s breakout season became marred by a much-larger issue. On September 19, Major League Baseball placed German on administrative leave while an investigation was opened up into an alleged domestic violence incident involving German and his girlfriend. No criminal charges were filed, but German sat out the rest of the season as well as the postseason — and ultimately accepted an 81-game suspension that will hold him out until June 5.

2019 Statistics: 143 IP, 4.03 ERA, 4.72 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, 9.63 K/9, 2.49 BB/9, 1.89 HR/9, 2.0 fWAR

2020 Fangraphs Depth Chart Projections: 108 IP, 4.71 ERA, 4.75 FIP, 1.30 WHIP, 9.39 K/9, 2.99 BB/9, 1.73 HR/9, 1.3 fWAR

The projections don’t come out great for German, and it isn’t hard to see why. Entering the season midway through without any access to spring training with the team is bound to set German back, and he’ll need time to get into game shape. Whether that ends up being returning as a reliever for the club or going down to Triple-A Scranton for a spell, that’s going to cost German more time and opportunities to rack up innings.

There’s also the issue of where German finds a role when he is ready to play in pinstripes. Entering the season as a reliever may be the most likely scenario, but it’s also been discussed as the role that German could stay in for most of the year. Should that be the case, German’s innings would innately be suppressed and his WAR would be drastically lower. Depth Chart has German pitching in 23 games and starting 18 of them, so they don’t see that scenario as likely, but it’s something to watch for.

The most striking flaw that German had from last year was the amount of home runs he allowed. German coughed up 30 long balls last year, which was aided by the juiced ball but was still far too many to allow in 143 innings. Depth Charts projects him to cut that down to 20, but accounting for the amount of innings he should get that isn’t a significant decrease. A declining velocity on German’s fastball hasn’t helped him in this regard, as his fastball average has dropped nearly three mph over the last three years.

All in all, it sounds like a lot has to turn in German’s favor for him to put together a decent season in 2020. It was already going to be difficult for German to reclaim his spot in New York, but the forecast looks pretty bleak for German joining the top half of the rotation. One thing that does benefit him is the early injuries the team has already sustained, making it probable that a starting spot will be on the table, but there are two months for a handful of talented prospects to earn the job ahead of him. It’s more than likely that we’ve seen the peak of German’s time in New York.