New York Yankees’ Domingo German must now switch his focus to 2021

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 06: Domingo German #55 of the New York Yankees pitch sin the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on September 6, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts.

With this season scheduled for just 60 games, the New York Yankees will officially be without Domingo German for the 2020 campaign. 

Thomas Hall

Following months of unsuccessful negotiations with the players’ union, Major League Baseball was forced to implement a shortened season of just 60 games on Monday night.

While baseball is officially slated to return next month, the New York Yankees will need to move forward without one of their promising arms this season. Along with Luis Severino, Domingo German won’t take the mound for the Bronx Bombers until the 2021 campaign.

As a result of German’s 81-game suspension for domestic violence, the right-hander was supposed to miss the first 63 games of this season — he already served 18 games of his penalty in 2019. Luckily, his suspension won’t carry over to 2021 and he won’t be forced to miss the first three games of next season.

With that said, sitting out for an entire campaign is certainly less than ideal, especially for pitchers. To make matters worse, the 27-year-old’s first full season in the major leagues didn’t end on a positive note.

When German was promoted to the majors last April — filling in for the injured Severino — he dominated opposing batters over his first nine starts. Taking New York by storm, the 6-foot-2 hurler quickly became a fan favorite while wearing pinstripes.

During his first 55.1 innings of work, No. 55 exceeded expectations and produced a 2.60 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 4.02 xFIP, 0.98 WHIP, .184 OPP AVG, 25.6% strikeout rate, 7.2% walk rate, 9.3% HR/FB rate along with a 36.9% hard-hit rate.

Unfortunately, these stellar results only lasted for the first two months of last season. Once the former top prospect suffered a hip injury during his final start in May, he attempted to battle through the pain. Nonetheless, he struggled to replicate his impressive metrics.

Over his three starts from May 26-June 7, the Dominican native recorded a disappointing 8.59 ERA, 7.30 FIP, 3.68 xFIP, 1.64 WHIP, .323 OPP AVG, 36.8% HR/FB rate, and 42.2% hard-hit rate through 14.2 innings pitched. Despite these terrible results, the Yankees hurler was still able to limit walks and create a significant number of swings and misses. He ultimately generated a 29.4% strikeout rate and 4.4% walk rate.

After spending nearly a month on the 10-day injured list, German returned to the Yankees rotation in July only to struggle on the mound through the remainder of the season, allowing too many long balls and hard contact in a hitter-friendly stadium. In an attempt to limit his workload, the righty finished last season by making two appearances out of the bullpen.

In total, the soon-to-be 28-year-old earned a 4.19 ERA, 5.32 FIP, 4.49 xFIP, 1.18 WHIP, .237 OPP AVG, 25.1% strikeout rate, 6.6% walk rate, 20.7% HR/FB rate, and 44.1% hard-hit rate over his final 73.0 innings of work.

Even though German’s 2019 campaign was hijacked by his hip injury, the right-hander’s inability to consistently command his pitches through the second half of the season prevented him from reaching his full potential. If these issues aren’t corrected, his woes will likely carry into the 2021 campaign.

In particular, the majority of his issues from last season should be directed towards his low-80s curveball. After dominating through two months with his breaking ball, the man who’s referred to as “Sunday” (Players’ Weekend nickname) surrendered plenty of home runs against it over the following four months of the season.

Before German’s injury, he allowed just two home runs, a 35.6% hard-hit rate, and a 4.8% barrel rate against his curveball. But after he returned from the injured list, the four-pitch mix hurler (four-seamer, curveball, changeup, and sinker) surrendered six home runs, a 44.7% hard-hit rate along with an 8.7% barrel rate against it from July-August. Additionally, he recorded an 11.2% walk rate with his breaking ball over the final three months of the 2019 campaign.

Since German’s curveball is his primary strikeout weapon — it produced a 44.4% strikeout rate and 44.9% whiff rate in 2019 — he can’t afford to continue allowing a ton of hard contact and walks against it. If he wants to win a job as a starter in 2021, he’ll need to take advantage of this downtime and become a more polished arm for next season.

With just one minor-league option remaining, the Yankees will be able to send German down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre if he doesn’t break camp with the team next spring. Nevertheless, he’ll be turning 29 years old next August and will be facing a pivotal time in his career.

While James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and potentially J.A. Happ could all depart through free agency this winter, New York already possesses a number of internal candidates for its starting rotation. Along with Severino and German, the team will also employ Jordan Montgomery, Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, Michael King, and even Albert Abreu as replacement options.

Based on the names listed above, the right-hander could be forgotten about if his struggles return in 2021. Unless the Bombers become riddled with injuries next season, there’s a chance he could spend the majority of the 2021 campaign in the minor leagues.

Even though there’s still time for German to establish himself as a reliable major-league arm, the clock is ticking and he’ll need to make the best of this unexpected situation. If he’s able to refine his repertoire, the promising hurler could make a strong case for a starting role next spring.

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