RHP Adam Warren
Adam Warren is your classic late bloomer, a major win for the Damon Oppenheimer’s crew. He was a solid prospect out of High School, but had a strong commitment to a big time, home town program at UNC, so he went unsigned at the draft. He spent his first two years at UNC pitching out of the bullpen, then finally got a chance to start his junior year. He was throwing mostly in the low-90s and high-80s. He really blossomed his senior year, when he velocity shot up to the 92-94 mph range. The Yankees drafted him in the 4th round, about a full round before he was expected to go.
He’s still throwing in the 92-94 mph range, although he will throw up a 96 or 97 on the radar gun every once in awhile. He does most of his work with three fastballs, a four-seamer, two-seamer, and a cutter. He has a changeup and a curveball, but going into last season neither were particularly strong. I haven’t heard any scouts comment on it, but there’s a good chance that an improvement in either pitch helped push his strikeout rate into the stratosphere in Trenton. He has great control of his fastballs, but doesn’t throw either the curveball or changeup for strikes. He also has a really good pickoff move. Warren has thrown a lot of innings between college and the minor leagues without any injury issues, which is a major plus.
Adam Warren has probably passed that threshold where we consider him a potential relief pitcher. In the low minor leagues, he mostly worked off a strong fastball and his four years of college experience to beat hitters he should have beat. Double-A hitters aren’t what they used to be, but they aren’t going to be as easily overpowered as the hitters in the lower levels. I’m a big believer in pitchers who work in a strong cut fastball – he seems to be one of the most reliably hard to hit pitches in the majors. That said, Adam Warren needs one of his slower pitches, preferably the curveball, to be more than a show-me offering. If both make an improvement, he’s going to be a much better starting pitcher than people realize.
Power and control are a great combination for a starting pitcher. Warren has them. Throw in his fastball movement, and you’re already looking at a major league package at least in the bullpen. The real question that Warren has to answer is whether or not he was just getting by with his other pitches against much more inexperienced competition, or if he’s ready to take them to the next level. He’ll get his ground balls and weak contact without them, but he won’t succeed in the majors without a decent strikeout rate. Major league hitters will hit more than .2 HR / 9, and he needs to limit base runners. Not walking batters will help, but he’ll be forced to throw more pitches out of the strike zone if he isn’t able to develop a put-away pitch.
How good can Warren be? A decent comparable isn’t coming to mind right now, but think of it this way: a lot of major league pitches throw with less velocity, have less movement on their pitches than he does, and have poorer control. If he can keep his pitch count down, we’re looking at a 200 inning starting pitcher who puts up an ERA in the 3.80-4.20 range as your best case scenario. I’ll take that in a minute.
By rights, he should start 2011 in Scranton, but may get bumped down if one of Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia opt to stick in the minor leagues after failing to make the Yankees. He’s the least experienced of the David Phelps/D.J. Mitchell/Andrew Brackman/Hector Noesi/Colon/Garcia group, so it makes sense to bump him. If it were up to me though, I’d probably opt to cut one of Colon or Garcia first. He’s also the type of guy – flashy, advanced, but not untouchable – who frequently ends up in a trade. Don’t get too attached to him.
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