Friday, December 19, 2014 was arguably the most unexpectedly busy day of this Yankee hot stove season. Nobody saw the big Prado/Phelps-Eovaldi/Jones trade coming, and once it happened it sparked a ton of talk around the Yankosphere about what the deal meant for this coming season and future seasons. While all that debate was happening, the Yankees made a much smaller move in acquiring pitcher Gonzalez Germen from the Mets for cash. That move didn't draw much attention at the time for obvious reasons, but with the Yanks continuing to wheel and deal and the bullpen looking primed to be a major source of spring competition, maybe it's time to shine the spotlight back on German for a bit and see if he can factor into that bullpen mix.
Germen is a 27-year-old right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic. He was signed by the Mets in 2007 and made his US debut for their rookie league affiliate in 2009. Listed at 6'1"/200 pounds, Germen features a mid-90s 4-seam fastball, a low-80s changeup, and a mid-80s slider. He's worked as a full-time reliever for the last 2 seasons after being converted from a starter in 2012.
His '09 season was only 2 appearances, so 2010 was really Germen's true American pro debut season. He made 10 appearances for the Mets' rookie league team, all starts, and pitched to a 3.69 ERA in 61.0 innings. This got him promoted to Low-A ball, where he made 2 more starts in 2010 and then 21 in 2011, pitching to a 3.93 ERA in 119.0 IP at that level. He began the 2012 season in High-A and finished it at Triple-A, making 24 starts in 26 appearances and putting up a 4.34 ERA over 153.1 innings.
The start of the 2013 season saw Germen's role change from almost full-time starter to full-time reliever. I imagine the Mets' strong rotation depth at the higher levels of their system had something to do with this decision, and the move worked to get Germen to the show. He made 29 appearances for the Mets in 2013, pitching to a 3.93/2.90/4.16 tripleslash with 33 strikeouts and 16 walks in 34.1 IP. He battled some injury problems in 2014, pitching a total of 58.1 innings split across 3 levels. In 30.1 innings out of the big league 'pen, his line was 4.75/5.57/4.12 and he was worth -0.7 fWAR.
Overall, Germen profiles as the classic "all stuff/no command" pitcher. His 22.7% career Major League K rate is solid and he's become a bigger strikeout pitcher as he's gotten older. His 10.6% career BB rate is pretty bad, however, and it's worth noting that walks have become a bigger problem for him as he's gotten older and shifted to the 'pen. His inability to command his pitches has surely limited the value of his stuff and hampered his Major League performance. Germen gave up 7 homers in his 30.1 innings in 2014, a HR/FB rate of 18.4%. While that high number may be the result of SSS bias, his flyball tendencies paired with the aforementioned wildness could have something to do with it as well and would seemingly not play well pitching in Yankee Stadium.
And yet there may be hope that Germen can turn into something useful. His changeup has been a very, very good pitch for him in his limited Major League experience, to the tune of a 30.6% swinging strike rate and 47.6% K rate. Those same rates for his slider are in the low-to-mid 20s range, far less impressive than the changeup but still plenty good. His fastball is flat and straight and he gets beat up on it as a result, but Germen does possess 2 legitimate swing-and-miss offspeed offerings. One would think that a pitcher with that type of arsenal could perform better as a reliever than Germen has if he was able to overcome his command problems. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has plenty of experience in that department, so perhaps he can work some magic and help Germen cut down on the walks and misplaced pitches.
In a perfect world, Rothschild would be able to help Germen locate his fastball better, keep his changeup down, and turn Germen into a reliable, high-strikeout middle reliever capable of going more than 1 inning if needed. In the real world, Germen's command issues put him outside the current projected bullpen and make him nothing more than a Quad-A insurance arm. He's a nice piece to have around for that purpose and his offspeed stuff makes him somewhat intriguing, but it's hard to see Germen working himself into any meaningful big league role in 2015.