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Yankees 2023 Season Preview: Domingo Germán

The right-hander might be the favorite to win the fifth starter gig in Frankie Montas’ absence, and his velocity seems to be creeping back up at the right time.

New York Yankees Spring Training Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images

Every time a portion of Yankees fans is ready to move on from Domingo Germán, baseball shows why having decent pitching depth is not only recommended, but necessary. Whether the controversial right-hander is the “right” depth to have around is a different debate, but now, the team needs his services and he is healthy and available.

Due to Frankie Montas’ shoulder surgery, one of Germán and Clarke Schmidt will be needed in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Even if he doesn’t win the job, Germán’s presence represents valuable competition for Schmidt.

2022 Stats: 72.1 IP, 3.61 ERA, 4.44 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 7.22 K/9, 2.36 BB/9, 1.37 HR/9, 0.7 fWAR

2023 ZiPS Projections: 98.7 IP, 4.10 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 7.93 K/9, 2.37 BB/9, 1.28 HR/9, 1.4 fWAR

The 2023 campaign represents perhaps one last chance for Germán to cement his place in the Yankees’ future plans. If he has a successful year, tendering him a contract in 2024 – his last season of team control before hitting free agency – will be a no-brainer. If he doesn’t, well, non-tendering him could be in the cards.

After missing a lot of time with a right shoulder impingement, he was activated from the 60-day injured list on July 21. He proceeded to have an acceptable season from a run-prevention standpoint (his 3.61 ERA in 72.1 innings was strong, his 4.44 FIP, not so much) but due to diminished fastball velocity, he morphed into more of a contact-oriented pitcher given his career-low 19.5 percent strikeout rate.

You could say he outperformed his contact metrics, though:

Baseball Savant

He wasn’t much of a factor in the postseason, as he pitched just one inning with no runs allowed, but two walks. It was evident the Yanks didn’t trust him much in October, but things could change if he gets some of his velocity back.

At least in his Wednesday start against the Washington Nationals, the signs were encouraging on that front. Germán allowed one run in 2.1 frames, striking out three as the Yankees topped the Nats 4-2.

The best thing of all is that his velocity seems to be a bit higher than last year. The righty averaged 93.9 mph with his fastball in that start, after coming in at 92.7 mph in 2022.

That 92.7 mph velo reading was almost a couple of ticks below what the radar gun showed in his first full campaign in MLB, in 2018 (94.5 mph). If Germán can add some extra velocity, at least in comparison to his 2022 average, his upside could increase a bit and he could have a strong case to win the fifth starter job.

With a 4.37 ERA and a 4.46 FIP for his career, his upside seems limited, in part because of that middling velocity and his lack of great command. He could potentially be of great use as a reliever, specifically in a multi-inning role, if he fails to lock up a rotation spot this spring, though.

Be it as a starter or as a member of the bullpen, the Yankees could sure use Germán’s best season yet in 2023. Home runs (he has allowed 1.61 per nine innings during his career so far) will likely be a problem for him for the remainder of his MLB tenure, but that doesn’t mean he can’t provide quality depth or be a fine fifth starter if that’s the role the team requires from him.

By the look of things, he might have the upper hand in the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation at the moment even though Schmidt is impressing with his new cutter. If that’s indeed the case, Germán would be on a relatively short leash.

Now that he is further removed from the shoulder issues that plagued him last year, it’s reasonable to expect his velocity to go up, and if that’s the case, it will be fascinating to see if he keeps last year’s contact-oriented approach or if he reverts to the version of himself that struck out roughly a batter per inning from 2017-21.

In any case, the Yankees will likely make Germán an important part of their 2023 pitching plans.