This Yankees pitching prospect poised to fill Brito's void as surprise fifth starter

Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Yankees
Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Yankees / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

With Juan Soto in the balance, the Yankees were forced to surrender Michael King, then choose between their top pitching prospects and 2023 innings-eating contributors.

Ultimately, they bent to the Padres' will somewhat, surrendering Drew Thorpe, as well as Jhony Brito and Randy Vásquez, both of whom were valuable swingmen in 2023 (Brito, in particular, found a late foothold during two-or-three-inning relief appearances). That left Chase Hampton to fill the "Double-A/Triple-A Vaunted Arm" role vacated by Thorpe, and it appears the Yankees feel confident they also have the horses to absorb Brito and Vásquez's responsibilities, potentially as soon as Opening Day.

According to FanGraphs' recent summation of the Yankees' top 36 prospects, Will Warren (ranked sixth) should be "considered a threat" to crack the team's Opening Day rotation, gushing, "Even though he isn’t on their 40-man roster, Warren is arguably in a better position to crack the Yankees’ 2024 rotation than other pitchers who are."

Thanks, in large part, to his refinement of the sweeper over the course of the 2023 campaign, Warren seems poised to break down the door sooner rather than later, whether Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the rotation's co-ace or not.

Yankees to roll with Will Warren in fifth starter competition in 2024?

Yamamoto or Yamamot-No, the Yankees will still have valuable innings to eat in 2024. No objective observer thought Brito had a chance of cracking the rotation last season, before Carlos Rodón, Frankie Montas, and Nestor Cortes all went down. Any of those pitchers could once again be the culprits next season. Clarke Schmidt, coming off a career-high in innings pitched by a significant amount -- a remarkable 101.1-inning leap year over year -- will need a caddy, at some point.

Whether the Yankees add free agency's most buzzed-about name or not, they'll likely need to reunite with Montas for necessary depth, and rely on Warren's advancing arsenal sooner rather than later.

Luckily, the powers that be believe in the 24-year-old righty's ability to miss bats, following in the footsteps of recent departures like Brito, Vásquez, Hayden Wesneski and Ken Waldichuk. Warren's strength is similar to Wesneski's: a devastating breaker that allowed him to conquer Triple-A as the year went on. His June ERA was 5.17. July? 6.14, though his batting average against dipped from .292 to .241. He was becoming less hittable, and his efforts paid off down the stretch (3.67 ERA in August, a Michael King-like two earned runs allowed in 28.2 innings in September).

Whether Warren is needed in March or August, he'll certainly be in line for the big-league throne this upcoming season. Hopefully, he's able to shake off the butterflies and shirk an adjustment period like Brito, his predecessor, who was a sensation from the start, then thrived in a new role after the league caught up.