On March 17th, the Yankees placed right-hander Domingo Germán on the 60-day injured list with right shoulder impingement syndrome. Just a couple of days before that, it had been reported that he suffered some shoulder issues in January, but the nature of the lockdown really limited communication channels between teams and players to even discuss things as important as injuries.
It wasn’t a short-term knock for Germán, and the Yankees also brought him along slowly. Little by little, he completed a step by step program: playing catch, bullpen sessions, live batting practice, simulated games, and then a rehab assignment that began in late June.
He finally made his long-awaited return after the All-Star break, and became a valuable contributor in the rotation.
2022 Statistics: 15 games, 72.1 IP, 3.61 ERA, 4.44 FIP, 4.33 xFIP, 7.22 K/9, 2.36 BB/9, 0.7 fWAR
2023 Contract Status: Entering second year of arbitration
Let’s start with the positives: Germán managed to finish with a fine 3.61 ERA, which is a very good number for a pitcher in the American League East division. His kept his walks as low as ever (2.36 BB/9) and his home run per nine innings ratio decreased for a second consecutive campaign: it was 1.89 in 2020, 1.56 in 2021, and 1.37 this past season. Germán seemed to embrace a new contact-oriented approach, knowing that he had a strong infield defense behind him.
Now, the negatives: His fastball velocity decreased from 93.4 mph on average in 2021 to 92.7 mph in 2022. It wasn’t a huge dropoff, but it likely played a role in the (organizational?) decision to adopt a different approach. Germán’s 4.44 FIP was almost a run higher than his ERA, suggesting that he was indeed saved by his defense in more than one occasion. In fact, he posted the highest hard-hit rate of his career, at 40.6 percent. On top of that, his strikeout rate fell under 20 percent for the first time ever, at 19.5. In fact, his Statcast profile was more on the underwhelming side:
His curveball and changeup didn’t quite miss bats like they did in the past: the former’s whiff rate went from 42 percent in 2021 to 38.1 percent in 2022, while the latter decreased from 31.6 percent to 20.9 percent. We will probably need to see Germán next season to really evaluate him more accurately, because he will be a year removed from his case of shoulder impingement and his fastball velocity could potentially come back to pre-injury levels.
For now, we can say that he gave the Yankees another option to make starts down the stretch, which is probably more valuable than we all think. He wasn’t much of a factor in the postseason, though, with just a scoreless inning pitched with two walks and a strikeout. Perhaps he should have been brought in specific situations, but it certainly wasn’t his decision.
Germán will need good health, first and foremost, to really have a chance to cement his place in the 2023 Yankees. After that, however, he will be required to find consistency overall in whichever role he is asked to fulfill. He may or may not have a rotation spot depending on what the Yankees do (he may or may not be on the roster, while we are at it), but we have discussed in the past how he could be a weapon out of the bullpen — in 49 innings as a reliever in his career, his ERA is a fine 3.31 with a .609 OPS allowed.
Either way, he represents solid organizational pitching depth with the upside to be more than that.