Today will conclude my four-part series looking at each of the four legitimate fifth starter candidates for the New York Yankees when spring training opens later this week in Tampa, FL. We had previously examined Michael Pineda, David Phelps, and Vidal Nuno. Finishing our series off, we take a peek at the least likely of the four to win the fifth starter’s job for the Bombers this spring. Today, we profile Adam Warren.
Born and raised in North Carolina, Warren pitched in college for the North Carolina Tarheels. During his sophomore season, Warren had a season for the ages, going 12-0 with a minuscule 2.17 ERA in 15 appearances. As a junior, he failed to repeat his dominance of the previous year, going 9-2 as his ERA jumped to 4.23 in 14 games started. After being drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 36th round in 2008, Warren chose not to sign and instead returned to school for his senior year.
The Yankees drafted Warren in the fourth round of the 2009 MLB Draft, and he reported to Staten Island to begin his professional career. In his first year in the system, he recorded a 2-1 record with an ERA of 1.43 and struck out 50 hitters in 56 2/3 innings of work. The following season in Tampa, Warren went 7-5 in 15 games started with a 2.22 ERA and 67 Ks in 81 innings. Before the season was completed, he was promoted to Double-A Trenton where he finished with 4-2 record with a 3.15 ERA to go along with 59 Ks in 54 1/3 innings. The highlight of Warren’s second season in the Yankees’ system, was when he set a franchise record by striking out 15 hitters in a single game. In 2011, Warren continued his success in the Yankees’ farm system, pitching for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, and being selected for the Triple-A All-Star Game. He finished 2011 with a 6-8 record, a 3.60 ERA while striking out 111 in 152.2 innings.
After having another solid season at Triple-A, Warren made his Major League debut for the Yankees, replacing an injured C.C. Sabathia in the Yankees starting rotation. His debut was something to forget, as he only last 2 1/3 innings, giving up 8 earned runs in a beating at the hands of the Chicago White Sox. After being relieved by fellow fifth starter candidate David Phelps, Warren was optioned back to Triple-A. He was called back up in September of 2012 when rosters expanded, and watched the Yankees go down in flames to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series.
In 2013, Warren made the big club out of spring training. He recorded his first Major League save after pitching four scoreless innings in a Yankees 7-0 victory against the Indians. Warren was briefly optioned back to Triple-A after throwing six shutout innings in an 18-inning loss to the Oakland A’s. He was brought back up shortly thereafter and remained on the roster for the remainder of 2013. The 26-year-old served primarily as a reliever, but did get two spot starts later in the season, finishing with a 3-2 record along with a 3.39 ERA and 64 punchouts in 77 innings of work.
What does Adam Warren bring to the table to make him a viable fifth starter candidate? He has five pitches, including three fastballs (two-seamer, four-seamer, and a cutter) that sits between 92-94 mph. Along with the heat, he has a circle change and continues to develop a curveball. He had previously worked on a slider, but the organization asked him to spend more time working on his breaking ball. His pick-off move is about as good as it gets from a right-hander.
He stands 6’1″, and tips the scales right at 200 lbs. He’s not a strikeout pitcher per se, and for him to be a legitimate starter in this rotation, he would most likely need additional work to stretch him back out to the workload of a starting pitcher. He has spent most of his time in the bullpen over the past two seasons, and has to prove that he can turn over a lineup multiple times consistently to get a solid look at cracking the rotation. If push came to shove, I believe the Yankees, if left with the option of inserting Warren into the rotation, or looking outside the organization for help, would choose the latter. Adam Warren appears to be destined to remain a reliever in the Yankees bullpen unless he gets dealt somewhere down the line who gives him a better opportunity to become a full-time starter.