Who is Will Warren, the Yankees pitching prospect on the cusp of MLB debut?

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Will Warren, recognized as the Yankees’ second-highest-rated pitching prospect, is generating interest as the team is eager to assess his potential contribution at the major league level. Throughout the previous season in Triple-A, Will Warren showcased a diverse repertoire of pitches and achieved a 3.61 ERA across 99.2 innings.

Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake has hinted at Will Warren being in contention for a debut in 2024. While acknowledging that he may not be an immediate necessity if the team remains in optimal health, Blake recognizes the unpredictable nature of a 162-game season. He anticipates that an opportunity for Will Warren to showcase his skills will likely present itself at some point during the season.

Who is Will Warren?

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Hailing from Brandon, Mississippi, and born in 1999, this 24-year-old prospect is eager to mark his MLB debut in 2024. He entered the professional baseball scene as the 243rd pick in Round 8 of the 2021 draft after being selected by the Yankees from Southeastern Louisiana University. As a right-handed pitcher, his journey through the minor leagues includes stints with the Hudson Valley Renegades, Somerset Patriots, and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

Experiencing a swift ascent through the minors, Will Warren reached Double-A within two months of embarking on his professional career. By May of the previous year, he received a call-up to Triple-A. Although he faced initial challenges, evidenced by a 7.08 ERA in his initial five starts, Will Warren demonstrated remarkable improvement, concluding the season with an impressive 2.72 ERA in his final 14 starts. This progress catapulted him up the organizational prospect rankings, securing the second-best Yankees pitching prospect position and a spot among the top ten in the organization, as recognized by MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, and Keith Law of The Athletic.

The diversity of his arsenal

Will Warren boasts a diverse five-pitch arsenal, including a sinker, sweeper, four-seamer, slider, and changeup. Among these, the sinker and slider are his primary weapons, with the sinker achieving a remarkable 67 percent groundball rate and the slider showcasing an extraordinary 20 percent swinging strike rate in 2023. For comparison, Clay Holmes‘ sinker generated a 70.5 percent groundball rate, and Gerrit Cole‘s slider boasted a 16.4 percent swinging strike rate. While Will Warren’s overall groundball rate of 52.7 percent would have led the major league rotation, he acknowledges the need to refine his command, particularly in curbing his walk rate, which stood at nearly 11 percent.

Will Warren showcases near-elite MLB-level capabilities based on raw pitch metrics. Since his draft, he has elevated his four-seamer’s velocity to the range of 92-95 mph, occasionally reaching 97 mph. Notably, the pitch boasts an average spin rate in the high 2,400s, positioning it comfortably above the 90th percentile among MLB four-seamers. However, there’s room for improvement in terms of its vertical movement, and adjustments in finger placement and seam orientation during release could enhance its spin efficiency.

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Undoubtedly, Will Warren’s standout pitch is the sweeper, characterized by an impressive average spin rate exceeding 3,000 rpm. This places it in the top echelon of all MLB sweepers based on spin rate. Additionally, the pitch displays approximately 15 inches of gloveside movement, making it a top-tier sweeper in MLB in terms of horizontal movement compared to the average. Alongside this, Warren employs a more conventional gyro slider with an elite spin rate at 2,900 rpm, minimal horizontal movement, but a noticeable drop.

A frontrunner for the 2024 debut

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Will Warren emerges as the frontrunner for the fifth starter position in a spring training competition against Beeter. This assessment is supported by his impressive Stuff+ ranking, a metric devised by Eno Sarris that factors in elements like velocity, spin, and movement. His Triple-A results from the previous year underscore the effectiveness of his approach.

On a personal note, Will Warren’s romantic proposal to his now-fiancee, Darby Gillette, occurred in December 2023 at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans, a moment he shared with his Instagram followers. Beyond baseball, he enjoys duck hunting, and his faith holds a significant place in his life.

Sam Briend, the minor-league pitching coordinator for the New York Yankees, shared insights with The Athletic in October regarding Wil Warren’s progress. In the lower minors, he heavily relied on his physical talents. However, as highlighted by Briend, he has undergone a transformative process by incorporating the psychological dimension into his game:

“Will was so naturally gifted that he managed to overpower opponents. Yet, upon reaching Triple-A this season, the need for a strategic plan, the ability to recall previous performances, and the capacity to make in-game adjustments became imperative – all traits emphasized by accomplished big league pitchers.”

Yankees prospect Will Warren is pitching for Triple-A RailRiders

At 24 years old, Will Warren is not currently listed on the 40-man roster, but there is a strong likelihood of his inclusion during the upcoming season. Recognized as the organization’s second-best pitching prospect and eighth-best overall by MLB Pipeline, he delivered a commendable performance in the 2023 season.

Across 27 games, including 25 starts split between Double-A and Triple-A, Will Warren boasted a 3.35 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. Impressively, he recorded 149 strikeouts over 129 innings, showcasing his effectiveness on the mound.

Blake commended Will Warren’s performance in the latter part of the 2023 season and expressed that he will be considered for inclusion in the initial 40-man roster.

Although the extent of Will Warren’s impact on the Yankees’ rotation in 2024 is uncertain, there is optimistic anticipation for the promising young pitcher’s future.

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