It’s been a little more than 53 weeks since the Red Sox shockingly pulled off a trade with the division rival Yankees.
On January 25 of last year, Boston acquired veteran reliever Adam Ottavino and pitching prospect Franklin German from New York in exchange for nothing but cash considerations.
The Yankees made such a move so that they could free up a roster spot for Corey Kluber. The Sox, on the other hand, pulled the trigger so that they could bolster their big-league bullpen while also acquiring a potentially intriguing piece for the future.
While Ottavino proved to be a key member of Boston’s relief corps in 2021, German had to endure his fair share of struggles in the minor-leagues last year.
At the time the trade was made, Red Sox chief officer Chaim Bloom described German as an interesting prospect with a power arm who could work as either a starter or reliever down the line.
To that point in his career, German — a fourth-round draft pick of the Yankees out of the University of North Florida in 2018 — had primarily worked out of the starting rotation while progressing through New York’s farm system.
Coming into his first season with a new organization, German received an invite to major-league spring training and got some run in the Grapefruit League before being reassigned to minor-league camp.
In early May, the right-hander broke camp with Double-A Portland as a member of the Sea Dogs’ starting rotation. He made his organizational debut on May 6 and proceeded to post a 5.45 ERA (5.02 FIP) to go along with 65 strikeouts to 29 walks through his first 19 appearances (18 starts) and 79 1/3 innings pitched of the season.
Following his start against the Reading Fightin Phils at Hadlock Field on August 25, German was permanently moved to Portland’s bullpen for the remainder of the year. As a reliever, he flourished by not allowing a single run on just one hit, one walk, and seven strikeouts over five outings spanning five innings of work.
It’s a small sample size, but German was able to increase his strikeout rate from 17.9% to 41.2% and lower his walk rate from 8% to 5.9% upon moving to the Sea Dogs’ bullpen on a full-time basis late last summer.
In the fall, German was a candidate to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster since he was eligible for the 2021 Rule 5 Draft. Boston opted not to add German as the November 19 deadline came and went, but that has worked in the righty’s favor thus far.
That being the case because German was one of 28 Red Sox minor-leaguers who participated in the club’s Winter Warmup program in Fort Myers, Fla. last week. The 24-year-old, who would not have been able to participate had he been added to the 40-man on account of the ongoing lockout, was among 12 pitchers on hand at the Fenway South complex.
When speaking with reporters last Monday, Sox director of player development Brian Abraham was asked about the seasons German — and others in the organization who struggled as starters but thrived as relievers (like A.J. Politi) had.
More specifically, Abraham was asked by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith if the Red Sox view German and Politi as relievers now heading into 2022.
“I think towards the end of the year, they (German and Politi) were able to get acclimated to that role and it’s something we’ll probably focus with both of them on moving forward,” Abraham said. “Certainly as we’ve all seen with various pitchers throughout Red Sox history, we’d never say never to potentially going back to more of an extended role or a starter role.
“I think pitching out of the ‘pen, even multiple innings, is really valuable these days,” he added. “To transition to the bullpen and have success was a nice introductory opportunity into the relief role. So, we would see them as that.”
German, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds, operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 93-97 mph fastball that tops out at 98 mph, a changeup, and a slider, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.
A native of Tampa, German is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 52 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 21st among pitchers in the organization. He is projected by the site to begin the 2022 season in the bullpen with Triple-A Worcester.
On that note, German is still technically eligible for the major-league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft, which was postponed indefinitely in early December because of the ongoing lockout.
If the lockout ends soon and the Rule 5 Draft is held before Opening Day, German could be scooped up by another club. The likelihood of that happening seems slim, but should still nonetheless be considered a possibility.
(Picture of Franklin German: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox)