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Stop Sleeping On Domingo German

When Luis Severino hit the injured list prior to the 2019 season, the Yankees pitching rotation appeared to lose their most threatening starter. When you lose a staff ace and a 19-game winner from the previous year, it undoubtedly shakes up the locker room as well as the mindset of upper-management for the upcoming season. The club did have the return of J.A. Happ as well as the acquisition of James Paxton to feel encouraged, but it has been the impact of a different pitcher that has the Severino injury looking like a blessing in disguise.

Emerging as the fifth starter out of spring training, 26-year-old Domingo German was tasked to take the place of Severino. Backed behind one of the most dangerous batting lineups in the big leagues, fantasy managers who opted to select German in the later rounds of their drafts have been as fortuitous as the Yankees themselves with the production of his arm to date. After more members of the Bronx Bombers continue to land on the IL like clockwork, it’s been the effectiveness of German that has given the team its “ace” back and a safe bet to put the team in a position to win every five games.

Tied for the major league lead with six wins, German has posted a dazzling 2.35 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 39 strikeouts in 38.1 innings pitched so far this season. While many managers expected the wins to pile up with an intimidating lineup behind him, it’s been his work on the mound that has cemented himself as a must-start option in all fantasy formats. As we approach the quarter-mark of the season we have to honestly ask ourselves, will German remain the best pitching asset in the New York rotation?

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The Evidence

Not only has German catapulted himself to the top of the Yankees pitching staff but he’s among the league leaders in numerous pitching categories. He ranks second in the league in batting average against (.158), OPS (.470), and outside the zone swinging% (37.1 O-Swing%). Not to mention his ERA and WHIP are also both top-three marks in the American League to further prove that he belongs in the conversation as one of the best hurlers of 2019. The numbers don’t lie, German truly is a great pitcher, but what has he done to explain this early season run of success?

Let’s start with what usually diminishes the game of a Yankees pitcher, their ability to control the home run. German hasn’t been bitten by the long ball often in 2019 as he’s served up just two homers on the year which is good enough for a top-five rate in HR/9 (0.47). His success as a pitcher who keeps the ball in the yard goes back to his Rookie-ball days starting in 2010 up until his latest Triple-A stint in 2018. Across these 461 IP in the minors, German gave up a mere 22 homers resulting in an eye-popping 0.42 HR/9 spanning his entire minor league tenure. Granted these numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s impressive nonetheless seeing as Clayton Kershaw’s 0.63 HR/9 is the best mark among big league starters over the past decade.

You might think German is a groundball machine after knowing his achievements in preventing the round-trippers, but his 40.0% GB% is over 5% lower than the major league average. What makes German difficult to hit resides in his devastating curveball and changeup that keeps hitters off balance to produce weak contact. He tosses his breaking ball 33.7% of the time, and it has proven its proficiency generating his highest SwStr% of any of his pitches with a 20.6% mark. He uses this offering to neutralize right-handers as they have hit only a paltry .117 off German this season, the second-best rate in the majors.

With righties humiliating themselves with the curve, left-handers struggle with German’s changeup just the same. Batters are hitting .100 off this off-speed delivery and popping it up in the infield at a gargantuan 80.0% rate. German’s changeup is just over six MPH slower than his four-seamer, but it has excellent movement that works away from lefties resemblant to that of a screwball pitch. With a dynamic approach against hitters on either side of the plate, batters will have a difficult time trying to adjust to the Dominican’s attack.


The Enduring

German’s staggering results so far will undoubtedly be a tall task to maintain throughout this season. Although his 2.72 FIP and modest 70.5% strand-rate suggest that he’s not solely benefitting on good fortune but a player who has earned his respect from those who follow baseball. Upholding all of his current stats would be a lofty expectation for any pitcher at any level of play, but German’s skill set and intelligence on the mound will at least keep him in the neighborhood.

The right-hander doesn’t need to overpower hitters but needs to remain smart with his pitching method. This is a concept that he’s grasped rather quickly after recently eclipsing his 20th career major league start, and it is certainly a trait to expect moving forward. German has good command of the strike zone and an improving ability to miss bats, but he can also pitch to contact when he needs to. It sounds easy, but it’s all there for German if he just continues to do what he’s already doing.

When Severino returns from injury, which looks like that will take place after the All-Star Game, the Yankees will have a spoil of riches in their rotation led by German. The only fear to watch out for is a potential innings limit after throwing just 91 IP in 2018 and 109.1 IP in 2017. Whether he will wind up in a bullpen role later this season or receive some shortened starts, German will continue to prevail as an ace for the Yankees and a bonafide stud for your fantasy squad.

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