Yankees going with youth in all the right places in 2015

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

The Yankees needed to get younger this offseason. Or, rather, they needed to get better, and the easiest way to do that was to get younger. The club had been stuck relying on old past-prime players and needed to change direction. Old players can still be really useful in moderation. But a roster full of ’em? Not the way to go.

After the end of the 2014 season, several key Yankees’ folks said the team intended to get younger in 2015. Joe Girardi said “at times we ran out four guys, five guys over 35 years old. I don’t think that will happen next year,” at his end-of-season press conference. Hal Steinbrenner said young players are “going to play a big part” for the team going forward during a radio interview in early-October. They talked the talk, for sure.

Teams say that sort of stuff every offseason — we want to get younger, more athletic, more well-rounded, etc. — and usually it’s just lip service. The intention is there but they never really follow through. That hasn’t been the case for the Yankees this winter. Girardi and Steinbrenner said they expected the club to get younger this winter and they have. Derek Jeter was replaced with Didi Gregorius*, Martin Prado with Jose Pirela/Rob Refsnyder, Hiroki Kuroda with Nathan Eovaldi, and Francisco Cervelli with John Ryan Murphy. They also have plenty of young relievers ready to replace Shawn Kelley and David Huff.

* Jeter was he oldest regular shortstop in the league last year, so the Yankees were going to get younger by default. They got way younger though. They didn’t replace Jeter with, say, soon-to-be 32-year-old Stephen Drew.

The Yankees didn’t just get younger, however. They got younger at key positions — the middle infield, behind the plate, and on the pitching staff. Only two teams since 2009 have had two middle infielders age 25 or younger qualify for the batting title in the same season — the 2011 Cubs (Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney) and the 2011 Nationals (Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa) — and the Yankees could very well do that in 2015 with Gregorius and either Pirela or (most likely) Refsnyder. Going young on both sides of second base is risky, but the Yankees seem willing to do it.

Catcher is a weird position because teams want either a young starter and a veteran backup to mentor him, or a veteran starter and a young backup he can mentor. With Brian McCann entrenched behind the plate, the Yankees have to go the veteran starter/young backup route next season, and John Ryan Murphy will presumably serve as McCann’s backup following the Cervelli trade. Down the road two or three years, perhaps Murphy will take over as the starter with McCann serving as the veteran backup as he ages and sees more time at DH.

(Marc Serota/Getty)
(Marc Serota/Getty)

Heading into next season, the only positions where the Yankees will have legitimately old and clearly past their prime players are first base (Mark Teixeira), right field (Carlos Beltran), and DH (Alex Rodriguez). I guess you could argue McCann belongs in that group as well, though I’m optimistic about his chances of rebounding next year, maybe foolishly. Otherwise the Yankees have prime age starters at catcher, third base, left field, and center field plus the kids at second base and shortstop.

As for the pitching staff, there are five rotation spots to fill, and the Yankees are planning to have 26-year-old Masahiro Tanaka, 26-year-old Michael Pineda, and 25-year-old Eovaldi occupy three of them in 2015. Ivan Nova, who turns 28 in two weeks, will return from elbow reconstruction at midseason to join them. The other rotation spots are slated to go to 34-year-old CC Sabathia and 36-year-old Chris Capuano. The team is locked into Sabathia because of his contract, which is in the back end portion of the “we want the elite years up front and will live with the ugliness on the back end” model, but Capuano is a depth arm on a low-cost one-year contract. In-house replacement starter options include 20-somethings Bryan Mitchell and Jose DePaula.

The Yankees currently have 20 pitchers on the 40-man roster and only four are age 28 or older: Sabathia, Capuano, Andrew Miller, and Esmil Rogers. (Nova’s two weeks from joining them.) Of those four, only Miller is expected to be a significant factor next year. Sabathia’s a wait-and-see guy after knee surgery while Rogers is another low-cost depth pitcher like Capuano. After Miller and Rogers, the oldest pitchers in the projected bullpen are 27-year-olds Adam Warren and Justin Wilson, who were born a week apart. Given Sabathia’s health and Capuano’s disposability, there might actually be a point next summer when the only pitcher on the active roster not in his 20s is Miller, who turns 30 in May. Wouldn’t that be something?

Now, here’s where it gets tricky: getting younger doesn’t automatically mean getting better. It’s quite risky, actually. We have very little idea of what Gregorius can contribute across a full season and even less about what Pirela and Refsnyder can provide. Kuroda had his worst season as a Yankee in 2014, but if Eovaldi were to match his 3.71 ERA (3.60 FIP) in 199 innings next year, I feel like it would be considered a positive. Murphy as the young backup catcher is great … unless he plays like the 2012 version of Austin Romine, the team’s last young backup backstop. Young players and productive young players are two different animals.

Right now, the Yankees are looking for productive young players. They hope Gregorius and Refsnyder and Eovaldi can be those guys. Maybe they can be, maybe they can’t. The only way to find out is to let them play. The Yankees are still going to be an older team in general next year, but the little bit of youth they do have is in the right spots. They are young at important up the middle positions and on the pitching staff. That’s where you want to have young players whose best years are still ahead of them. The Yankees are never going to tear it all down and rebuild. That’s not in their DNA. Instead, they’ve retooled this offseason by acquiring young players at key positions to carry them in 2015 and beyond.

Mailbag: Zach McAllister

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)
(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

Travis asks: Zach McAllister throws hard and did well in a short stint in relief with Cleveland. If they don’t believe in him anymore, could the Yankees take a shot at hoping he is a failed starter who can be a weapon out of the bullpen?

The 27-year-old McAllister was New York’s third round pick in their tremendously productive 2006 draft class, though they traded him to the Indians as the player to be named later for Austin Kearns at the 2010 deadline. McAllister has been an up-and-down arm with the Tribe the last four years, pitching to a 4.38 ERA (3.93 FIP) in 363.1 big league innings, almost all as a starter.

McAllister really struggled in the rotation this year, posting a 5.67 ERA (3.80 FIP) with mediocre strikeout (7.40 K/9 and 18.5 K%) and walk (3.21 BB/9 and 8.0 BB%) rates. Cleveland stuck him in the bullpen late in the season and he was much better, pitching to a 2.77 ERA (1.44 FIP) with excellent strikeout (9.69 K/9 and 26.9 K%) and walk (1.38 BB/9 and 3.9 BB%) numbers in 13 innings, so small sample alert. His ground ball rate (42.1% overall) was about the same in both roles.

I don’t remember where I saw it, but a few years ago I read an article detailing traits that helped identify middling starters who would be good bullpen candidates. I don’t remember all of the traits, but I do remember one of them was effectiveness early in starts — the first time through the order, etc. — before a big drop off later on. Here’s how McAllister has done each time through the order and within his first 25 pitches of a start throughout his career (via Baseball Reference):

Split PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/W BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip OPS+
1st PA in G, as SP 585 42 117 28 3 11 39 127 3.26 .217 .271 .341 .612 .262 62
2nd PA in G, as SP 562 85 148 42 2 10 50 93 1.86 .295 .357 .447 .804 .341 113
3rd PA in G, as SP 374 64 107 26 1 18 30 64 2.13 .316 .374 .558 .932 .344 144
4th+ PA in G, as SP 10 1 4 0 0 1 1 1 1.00 .444 .500 .778 1.278 .429 233
Split PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/W BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip OPS+
Pitch 1-25 423 28 88 21 3 7 18 93 5.17 .220 .255 .340 .595 .267 57
Pitch 26-50 428 52 98 27 0 7 46 81 1.76 .260 .338 .387 .725 .312 93
Pitch 51-75 389 60 109 26 3 8 33 60 1.82 .314 .371 .476 .847 .354 124
Pitch 76-100 298 52 83 19 0 17 20 54 2.70 .303 .356 .558 .914 .324 138
Pitch 101+ 45 2 11 4 0 1 5 11 2.20 .275 .356 .450 .806 .357 113

Those are some pretty significant splits, no? McAllister has been considerably better the first time through the order and within his first 25 pitches throughout his career. It’s a big, big drop off the second time through the lineup and after pitch 25. That suggests he might be best used as a short reliever who doesn’t have to turn the lineup over multiple times.

Furthermore, while McAllister does throw four pitches, he is very fastball heavy. He threw 64.5% four-seam fastballs back in 2011, and that has gradually increased to 69.7% in 2012, 73.1% in 2013, and 73.6% in 2014. McAllister’s thrown his changeup, cutter, and slider roughly 8-10% of the time each over the years. Unsurprisingly, his velocity ticked up noticeably in relief this past September (via Brooks Baseball):

Zach McAllister velocity

During his 13 innings in relief, McAllister scrapped his changeup and cutter and became a fastball-slider pitcher. The swing-and-miss rates for his fastball and slider went from ~8% and ~10% as a starter to ~11% and ~27% as a reliever, respectively. That’s a really big jump. But, of course, we are talking about only 13 innings, so we have to take it with a grain of salt. The velocity uptick definitely makes sense though, and there’s a pretty strong correlation between velocity and whiffs.

McAllister hasn’t showed a platoon split in the big leagues — .332 wOBA and 3.96 FIP against lefties, .329 wOBA and 3.90 FIP against righties — so he’s not someone who has to be hidden against lefties. (I’m pretty sure one of the traits that suggested a starter would be better off in the bullpen was a big platoon split.) If he were to go straight fastball-slider as a reliever, his platoon split might grow because sliders are typically reserved for same-side hitters. It’s not guaranteed to happen, but it could.

The increased effectiveness early in outings, the uptick in velocity, and his performance as a reliever in September (albeit in a small sample) all suggest McAllister would be much better off in the bullpen going forward. It would be better for him — above-average reliever pays better than disposable back-end starter, or at least it pays comparably with more job security — and better for his team as well. Now here’s a really fun comparison:

ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/FB%
Wade Davis as a SP
4.57 4.49 16.1 8.5 38.2 9.7
McAllister as a SP 4.44 4.03 18.6 7.8 39.6 9.1

Those two pitchers are really similar! Davis moved into the bullpen and became an absolute monster, basically a Dellin Betances who doesn’t give up homers. (Davis allowed zero homers in 2014.) That little table doesn’t mean McAllister will turn into an otherworldly reliever because Davis did, I just thought it was interesting. Some guys are just better off in the bullpen like Davis and Betances. McAllister might be one of those guys.

Based on all of this, I really like the idea of the Yankees bringing McAllister back and sticking him in relief. He is out of minor league options but New York does have two open bullpen spots, so there’s room on the roster for him. McAllister will be in his final pre-arbitration year in 2015, so he’ll be cheap, and he’ll remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2018. Obviously the team knows him too, so there’s some familiarity there.

The Indians have plenty of starters — McAllister is eighth on their rotation depth chart — so he might be considered expendable. I’m not quite sure what it would take to acquire him, but Ross Detwiler cost the Rangers two okay prospects a few weeks ago, guys in the 20-30 range on a prospect list. It’s not a perfect comparison — Detwiler’s a year away from free agency and was a former top prospect (sixth overall in 2007) — but it’s what we have. I’m very intrigued by McAllister as a reliever. If all it takes is two 20-30 range prospects to get him, I’d pull the trigger and see what he can do in a one-inning role.

Andrew Bailey is a wildcard for the 2015 bullpen, but not someone the Yankees will count on

Bailey, many years and injuries ago. (Presswire)
Bailey, many years and injuries ago. (Presswire)

Only five pitchers threw at least 50 innings for both the 2013 Yankees and 2014 Yankees, and, already this offseason, four of them have left the team one way or another. David Robertson departed as a free agent, Hiroki Kuroda returned to Japan, and both Shawn Kelley and David Phelps were traded away. The lone holdover is long man turned setup man Adam Warren.

Needless to say, the pitching staff will have a new look next year, especially the bullpen with Robertson, Kelley, and Phelps gone. Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances will be expected to handle the high-leverage spots while Warren and southpaw Justin Wilson provide backup. Esmil Rogers is versatile enough to be anything from the long man to another one-inning reliever, basically the role Phelps filled the last three years.

The last two bullpen spots are up for grabs with the caveat that the Yankees could always sign or trade for someone. They have no shortage of internal options, with holdovers Chase Whitley, Jose Ramirez, and Bryan Mitchell joining newcomers Gonzalez Germen and Jose DePaula. Then there’s Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder, and Danny Burawa. Manny Banuelos, even. My guess is we will see all of these guys at some point in 2015.

A wildcard for next year’s bullpen is rehabbing right-hander Andrew Bailey, who Brian Cashman has said is expected to be ready to pitch in Spring Training, according to Brendan Kuty. Bailey didn’t pitch at all this past season following shoulder capsule surgery, and that plus a thumb injury have limited him to 44 mostly ineffective (4.91 ERA and 4.68 FIP) innings from 2012-14. The last time he was actually good was 2011, his final season with the Athletics.

It goes without saying the Yankees can’t count on Bailey for anything next year, and his new minor league contract shows they aren’t. The team signed him last offseason to a contract that included a club option for 2015, but, after rehabbing him all year, they opted against a guaranteed deal for next year. He’s a lottery ticket. If Bailey is healthy enough to pitch at some point next summer, great. If not, well no big loss. Not like he’s soaking up a roster spot or significant cash.

Shoulder capsule surgery is very serious — no one has ever come back from the procedure and returned to their previous level of performance — so I think the upside with Bailey is not the dominant late-inning reliever he was with the Athletics from 2009-11, but instead the pitcher Kelley has been for the Yankees these last two years. The guy with great peripherals but an inflated ERA because he serves up homers and is prone to the big inning. Someone who is the fourth best option in the bullpen, not the first or second. Bailey replacing Kelley would be a big win in my opinion.

In this hypothetical world where Bailey returns and is a reasonably effective pitcher, he’s someone who could take over the ninth inning and close while Miller and Betances handle the seventh and eighth innings. Bailey has closer pedigree — let’s not kid ourselves, that sort of thing influences roster decisions — and having an assigned inning might be best for his warm-up routine after the injury. He might not be someone who can get up and quickly get ready at a moment’s notice after having his shoulder rebuilt. Having a set inning would allow Bailey to prepare to enter a game at his own pace since he’ll know exactly when he’s going to pitch.

Either way, Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is going to have a much different look next year now that Robertson and Kelley are gone. Bailey could be in the mix at some point, especially if he truly does get healthy enough to pitch in Spring Training, but he’s not looked at as likely contributor. These injured reclamation project guys tend not to work out — Octavio Dotel or David Aardsma, anyone? — which is why he’s nothing more than a lottery ticket. If healthy though, Bailey could give the bullpen and nice and unexpected boost.

Kelley trade means more moves are in the works, because more moves are always in the works

NYY - Kelley = Scherzer? Eh. (Leon Halip/Getty)
Yankees – Kelley = Scherzer? (Leon Halip/Getty)

Earlier this week, the Yankees shipped Shawn Kelley to the Padres for a Double-A reliever in a trade that sure looks like a pure salary dump. Kelley is projected to earn $2.5M through arbitration in 2015, so the team isn’t saving a ton of money, but they are saving money nonetheless. They also saved money in the Martin Prado/Nathan Eovaldi trade, in the Francisco Cervelli/Justin Wilson trade, and by replacing David Robertson with Andrew Miller.

I wrote about this at CBS the other day — the Yankees have been saving small amounts of money in almost all of their transactions over the last few months. Every team looks to be more cost efficient, so this isn’t some wild idea, but it’s rare to see the Yankees making moves like this. They usually take on salary, not shed it. Naturally, as soon as Kelley was dealt, more than a few people assumed the Yankees were clearing money to make another move. Kelley himself added fuel to the fire by telling Dan Barbarisi this after the trade:

“[Brian Cashman] said he hated to see me go, but they have some things they’re doing, some things they’re working on, and it was part of new plan,” Kelley said.

“They have some things they’re doing, some things they’re working on” is a fun quote! You can really let your imagination run wild with that one. Is all this saved money, the $1M or $2M at a time, going to eventually add up to Max Scherzer? James Shields? Yoan Moncada? Something else no one expects? The Yankees have a way of keeping things totally off the radar, you know.

And yet, Kelley’s quote really means nothing at all. It’s the “it’s not you, it’s me” of baseball breakups. Of course the Yankees are working on some things. They’re always working on things. Every team has an entire staff of people just working on things all the time. The real question is whether the savings from the Kelley trade — and the savings from the Cervelli trade, the Prado trade, letting Matt Thornton go on trade waivers in August, etc. — is earmarked for a specific move, or simply being set aside for future flexibility should something pop up.

Personally, I think the money is being set aside for later and not a specific move. The Yankees insist they are not in on Scherzer and while I do think they are sincere, I also understand Hal Steinbrenner & Co. could change their minds at a moment’s notice. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again. I’m sure of it. I don’t believe saving a couple million 2015 dollars equals being more open to a massive six or seven-year contract, however. I think they’re more likely to make one or two small moves before Spring Training or save the money for a bigger midseason trade addition. That’s just me.

Shedding relatively small amounts of money through trades doesn’t have to be a precursor to anything. Dealing Kelley one year before free agency when you have a small army of MLB ready-ish relievers in Triple-A makes perfect sense. Unloading the injury prone Cervelli when you have John Ryan Murphy waiting for an opportunity? Totally sensible. Replacing Robertson with Miller and getting a draft pick in the process is a smart baseball move. Maybe an unpopular one, I love Robertson and I know a lot of you do too, but we’re all smart enough to get it. Trading Prado both added a hard-throwing starter and opened a spot for Rob Refsnyder. Two birds, one stone.

Saving money seems like a secondary concern to opening a roster spot for a young player with these moves, if you ask me. (With Miller/Robertson they’re adding a young player via the draft rather than opening a roster spot, but you catch my drift.) The Yankees have clearly focused on getting younger this offseason and these moves all help accomplish that. Freeing up money comes with the territory. Young players are cheap. That’s why everyone wants ’em. Shedding salary by trading Kelley and whoever else doesn’t necessarily to mean something else is about to happen. It just means the Yankees are going in a different direction with their roster. A younger direction.

Tuesday Night Open Thread

Earlier today the Rays signed infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to a nice little one-year contract worth $8M or so. As I said a week or two ago, if Asdrubal was willing to take a one-year deal, I thought he would have made a ton of sense as a second base option for the Yankees. Easy to move if Rob Refsnyder forces the issue, provides some backup at shortstop in case Didi Gregorius doesn’t cut it, and a switch-hitter with some pop and speed for the lower third of the lineup. Oh well.

This is your open thread for the night. The Nets are playing and there is both college football and college baseball on as well. Talk about whatever here. Have at it.

(No one bothered to make a Shawn Kelley highlight video, so instead the video is what I consider to be his best performance in pinstripes. Later, Shawn.)

Mailbag: Chad Billingsley

(Mike McGinnis/Getty)
(Mike McGinnis/Getty)

Nick asks: Do you have any interest in Chad Billingsley?

Even if they go out and surprisingly sign Max Scherzer or James Shields, I think the Yankees have a place for a reclamation project arm like Billingsley. Nathan Eovaldi added some innings to the rotation but CC Sabathia (knee) and Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) are still major injury risks, so much so that they might not even make it through Spring Training healthy. Ivan Nova will be back eventually, but perhaps not until June.

The 30-year-old Billingsley made two starts in April 2013 before blowing out his elbow and needing Tommy John surgery. He made two minor league rehab starts this summer before suffering a setback and having surgery to repair his flexor tendon in June. At the time of the surgery, Ken Gurnick reported Billingsley would resume throwing in December and was expected to be ready in time for Spring Training. I haven’t been able to find a more recent update other than agent Steve Hilliard telling Jack Magruder his client is in no hurry to sign.

Because he barely pitched these last two years, the Dodgers declined their $14M club option for Billingsley after the season and instead paid him a $3M buyout. At this point the only club said to have interest in him is the Diamondbacks, who are now run by GM Dave Stewart, Billingsley’s former agent. (Stewart had to unload his clients once he joined a team.) I could have sworn the Yankees had interest in trading for Billingsley once upon a time, but apparently not. It must have been speculation.

During the 2012 season, his last full season before his elbow gave out, Billingsley pitched to a 3.55 ERA (3.34 FIP) with okay strikeout (7.70 K/9 and 20.2 K%), walk (2.71 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%), and ground ball (45.4%) rates in 149.2 innings. (He missed some time with elbow trouble.) He’s been a guy who has consistently underperformed his peripheral stats in recent years — Billingsley had a 3.86 ERA and 3.53 FIP in 725.2 innings from 2009-12. After that many innings, that’s just who he is.

As with any major surgery, there’s no real way of knowing how Billingsley will perform next season. He’s still reasonably young and you’d like to assume he’d return to his pre-Tommy John surgery form, but that’s not a guarantee. Plus the flexor tendon injury complicates things. If projections are your thing, Steamer pegs Billingsley for a 4.32 ERA (4.23 FIP) in 125 innings next year. That seems … reasonable? I guess so. It’s considerably worse than his career rates (3.65 ERA and 3.67 FIP), which reflects the injury risk.

The reclamation project starter market has already been set this offseason, giving us plenty of comparable deals. Here’s the list of contracts relevant to Billingsley:

  • Kris Medlen, Royals: Two years, $8.5M plus $10M in incentives and a $10M mutual option ($1M) after missing all of 2014 following his second career Tommy John surgery.
  • Gavin Floyd, Indians: One year, $4M plus $6M in incentives after throwing only 54.1 innings in 2014. He returned from Tommy John surgery then broke his elbow and needed surgery.
  • Brandon Morrow, Padres: One year, $2.5M plus $2.5M in incentives after throwing only 27.1 innings in 2014 due to a tendon sheath injury in his right index finger.
  • Josh Johnson, Padres: One year, $1M plus $6.25M in incentives after missing all of 2014 following his second career Tommy John surgery.

Brett Anderson could also be included here (one year, $10M with the Dodgers), but he’s significantly younger than all of these guys and the consensus seems to be that he got more money than expected. He’s a bit of an outlier. Medlen is also an outlier by virtue of getting two guaranteed years, then again he was the damn near ace-like in 2013 before blowing out his elbow in Spring Training earlier this year.

The Floyd, Morrow, and Johnson contracts seem most applicable to Billingsley, and those contracts average $2.5M guaranteed with about $5M in incentives. That seems more than reasonable to me. The Yankees have some nice depth rotation arms in Bryan Mitchell, Jose DePaula, and maybe Manny Banuelos, but there’s always room for a reclamation project guy like Billingsley. Remember though, the team has a full 40-man roster and would need to cut someone to accommodate a new player. (Eury Perez seems most likely to go.)

So, to the answer the question, yes I have interest in Billingsley at our $2.5M+$5M guesstimate. The real question is whether Billingsley has interest in the Yankees. Yankee Stadium isn’t the best place in the world for a pitcher to rebuild value, and that could work against them. One NL team is said to have interest in Billingsley (D’Backs) and I’m sure more will pop up in the coming weeks. The Phillies, Braves, Dodgers, Giants, and Rockies could all use another starter, for example. Aside from Colorado, those are better destinations for a reclamation starter than New York.

Doubling down on rotation injury risk might not seem like the best idea for the Yankees, but, at this point, the only safe bets left in free agency are Scherzer and Shields. Bringing in someone like Billingsley — or Paul Maholm or Felipe Paulino or one of many other reclamation project starters — to add some depth is never a bad move, especially since it only costs a little bit of money. I’d be in favor of the Yankees signing him if he’s willing to come to New York.

Prospect Profile: Domingo German

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Domingo German | RHP

Background
The Marlins signed the 22-year-old German out of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic during the 2009-10 international signing period. He signed at age 17 and received a $40,000 signing bonus, a very small bonus and especially so before the spending restrictions were implemented three years ago.

Pro Career
Because he was unrefined and a low-profile signing, the Marlins had German spend both the 2010 and 2011 seasons with their Dominican Summer League affiliate. He pitched to a 2.89 ERA (3.08 FIP) with 83 strikeouts and 40 walks in 81 innings spread across six starts and 20 relief appearances those two seasons.

German came to the United States for the 2012 season and threw 22.1 innings — all in relief — for the team’s Rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliate after opening the year in Extended Spring Training. He had a 1.61 ERA (2.99 FIP) with 29 strikeouts, though his 16 walks worked out to an unsightly 6.45 BB/9 (16.5 BB%).

The Marlins sent German back to the GCL in 2013 but bumped him up to their Short Season NY-Penn League affiliate in Batavia after five dominant starts: 1.38 ERA (2.69 FIP) with 27/5 K/BB in 26 innings. With Batavia, German posted a 1.76 ERA (2.10 FIP) with 34/5 K/BB eight starts and 41 innings. All told, he pitched to a 1.61 ERA (2.32 FIP) with 61 strikeouts (8.19 K/9 and 23.2 K%) and ten walks (1.34 BB/9 and 3.8 BB%) in 67 innings during the 2013 season.

German made his full season ball debut in the Low-A South Atlantic League this past season. He spent the entire year in the Greensboro Grasshoppers’ rotation and posted a 2.48 ERA (3.26 FIP) in 25 starts and 123.1 innings. German struck out 113 (8.25 K/9 and 22.4 K%) and walked only 25 (1.25 BB/9 and 5.0 BB%). He was the Marlins’ lone representative at the 2014 Futures Game and, after the season, Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 16th best prospect in the Sally League, one spot behind Yankees lefty prospect Ian Clarkin.

Although he has yet to pitch above Low Class-A, German was Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason because he has already been a pro for five full years. The Marlins added him to their 40-man roster before the deadline in November. The Yankees acquired German on December 19th along with Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Jones in exchange for Martin Prado and David Phelps.

Scouting Report
German is tall and slender at 6-foot-2 and 175 lbs., and his fastball sits in the 91-95 mph range with some serious natural sink. His fastball touched 97 mph on the regular this summer, even late in the season as his workload climbed into uncharted territory. German throws both a low-80s changeup and a sweepy low-80s breaking ball, the latter of which is inconsistent and his clear third pitch.

During his one-inning appearance at the Futures Game this summer, German struck out Cubs third base prospect Kris Bryant with a sinker and Rangers third base prospect Joey Gallo with a breaking ball. Here’s the video:

More than anything, German stands out for his athleticism and easy, compact delivery. That efficient motion allows him to fill the strike zone with his sinker, hence his excellent walk rates these last two years. He’s also never had an arm injury as a pro. German has a live arm and a simple delivery, though he must improve his secondary pitches and learn the nuances of pitching — holding runners, setting hitters up, etc. — to remain a starter long-term.

2015 Outlook
German will open next season in the High-A Tampa rotation and I think he’s likely to stay there all season. He’s not nearly as advanced as Luis Severino — Severino is 18 months younger than German, by the way — and shouldn’t be on the same fast track. Even though he is already on the 40-man roster, I would be surprised if German received a September call-up in 2015. His secondary pitches would have to make major strides early in 2015 for him to make that kind of jump.

My Take
The Marlins are a very good player development organization and German is a success story for them — he was a low-profile signing who developed into a quality prospect they were able to use as a trade chip. As for the Yankees, German fills a need in their position player-heavy farm system and gives them a young arm with big upside, something the system is short on at the moment. I like German because of his high-end fastball and easy delivery, plus he seems like a high probability big leaguer, even if it’s as nothing more than a reliever. German’s not a finished product, he still has a lot of development ahead of him, but he’s also a quality pitching prospect with upside.