How Domingo Germán can step up for the Yankees in 2023

Aug 27, 2022; Oakland, California, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Domingo German (55) acknowledges
Aug 27, 2022; Oakland, California, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Domingo German (55) acknowledges / Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

 Even though spring training has only just begun, the New York Yankees are already dealing with injuries. Frankie Montas was ruled out for at least half of this season (and likely much longer) after undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder. Nestor Cortes strained his right hamstring in the early part of February and will most likely be eased back towards a full workload, even if he is ultimately ready to go by Opening Day.

These kinds of rotational bumps and bruises mean Domingo Germán will have to step up early and often. Luis Severino, Gerrit Cole, and the newly-acquired Carlos Rodón may headline the front end of the rotation, but Germán has the opportunity to anchor a back end that may not be at full-strength until summer heats up.

Germán missed the first three and a half months of last season because of a right shoulder impingement. When the righty did return, he was serviceable. Over the span of 15 games (14 starts), German posted a 3.61 ERA and sported a fastball spin rate that ranked in the 97th percentile according to Baseball Savant. Interestingly, German’s elite fastball spin rate did not translate to strikeouts, as his K% ranked in the 26th percentile.

Yankees need Domingo Germán to improve in this one key area

This is part of Germán’s game that could improve somewhat this season. In 2019, he posted a K% that ranked in the 53rd percentile, and recorded a career-best 153 strikeouts. The D.R. native also boasted higher percentiles in terms of whiff % and chase rate in ‘19 and ‘21 then he did during the ‘22 season (he missed the entire 2020 season due to a suspension). Overall, the advanced arithmetic points to the 30-year-old’s need to regain stamina. 

“I feel like right now at this point I’m feeling better than last year,” told the New York Post through interpreter Marlon Abreu recently. “In the offseason, the plan was to find a way to make my shoulder stronger. … I did what I needed to do in terms of preparation so my shoulder could be stronger and in better shape.” 

If he can do so, his strikeout numbers will surely see a modest increase. It is worth noting that he additionally threw his fastball less in ‘22 than he did in ‘19 or ‘21. Although German is known to favor his curveball, this could be partly due to his shoulder woes. Assuming he is able to get back his stamina, changing speeds will be critical.

Given Germán’s 2020 suspension, and the “up and down” nature of his Bronx tenure, the beginning of this season holds the opportunity to be a make-or-break period of time. Yankees fans are certainly hoping he will seize the moment.