Will Warren spearheads Yankees pitching prospects pressing for 2024 call-up

Yankees prospect Will Warren is pitching for Triple-A RailRiders
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Expect to see Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes anchoring the Yankees’ starting rotation for the 2024 season. Clarke Schmidt may also join them, but his workload will be closely monitored due to his significant increase in innings pitched in the previous year. Carlos Rodon is set to return, although his performance is uncertain given his track record this season. In addition to these options, the Yankees will have other candidates like Michael King, Randy Vasquez, Jhony Brito, and potentially Luis Gil.

The Yankees’ potential need for additional starting pitchers this offseason depends on the development of pitchers like Will Warren.

Will Warren, ranked as the Yankees’ 10th prospect by MLB Pipeline, is wrapping up another strong season in the minor leagues, and he appears to be just one step away from making it to the major leagues.

Both Warren and his teammate, Clayton Beeter, are among the top prospects with the best chances of breaking into a major league rotation. Despite Warren’s progress through the minor league system, the team hasn’t required an extra starter yet. Furthermore, Warren doesn’t need protection from the Rule 5 draft this offseason, making it more challenging for him to secure a spot on the 40-man roster and make his major league debut.

Nonetheless, the 24-year-old has been excelling with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, demonstrating his ability to master the highest level of minor leagues. This suggests that he could soon become part of the Yankees’ future plans.

Warren expressed his goal of consistently delivering strong performances and creating a situation where the Yankees would face a challenging decision regarding his future with the team.

Will Warren is the Yankees No. 1 pitching prospect.
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Yankees prospect Will Warren, selected in the eighth round of the draft, has accumulated 19 starts at the Triple-A level, indicating he’s very close to making it to the major leagues.

However, the decision on when to call him up has become more challenging due to Warren’s initial struggles in his Triple-A season.

Warren, a draft pick from Southeastern Louisiana in 2021, embodies the Yankees’ pitching development approach. He made significant improvements to his mid-90s two-seam fastball and slider, which helped him excel at High-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset last year.

Yankees are in awe of Will Warren

This season, he continued his development and quickly moved up from Somerset to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in mid-May. However, mastering this final level before a major league debut has proven to be a work in progress.

After six starts with the RailRiders, Warren had a 6.29 ERA. The Triple-A level presents various challenges for prospects, including an altered strike zone due to the Automatic Ball-Strike system, which is smaller than the major league strike zone. According to SWB pitching coach Graham Johnson, this smaller zone has made hitters more passive at the plate, and pitches like Warren’s slider, which break out of the strike zone, aren’t as effective in drawing swings.

Former Yankees outfielder Shelley Duncan, who is now the Triple-A manager, mentioned that Will Warren has the potential to become a formidable pitcher once he fully masters command and his overall game comes together. Warren himself acknowledged the difference in facing Triple-A hitters, emphasizing the importance of not trying to be overly precise with his pitches and trusting in his abilities to outperform the batters he faces.

Warren has adjusted by focusing on throwing more strikes and utilizing his entire repertoire, which consists of a four-seam fastball, curveball, and changeup in addition to his slider.

When he hasn’t been able to induce chases and strikeouts, he’s become adept at generating groundballs. Among the 76 International League pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched as of Thursday, Warren boasted the sixth-highest groundball rate at 52.5 percent.

According to Johnson, he has observed progress in some of Warren’s other pitches, particularly the two-seam fastball. Warren has been working on utilizing both sides of the plate against right-handed hitters and incorporating it more against left-handed hitters as well. This adjustment provides him with additional options to complement his changeup and also helps protect his four-seam fastball.

Will Warren relies on a sweeping pitch as his go-to out pitch, but Triple-A batters have been hesitant to chase it due to the presence of the automatic strike zone.

Johnson pointed out that Will Warren is in the process of honing his overall approach to the game and learning how to integrate different aspects of his pitching repertoire more effectively.

Warren is making strides in his development. Following his performance against Buffalo where he allowed just one run over 5 ⅔ innings, his ERA at the Triple-A level has dropped to 3.91. He humorously mentioned that his mother would be pleased with it being below 4 since it’s the only statistic she follows. Additionally, his ERA has been an impressive 2.36 over his last eight starts.

Will Warren of the Yankees is pitching for Triple-A RailRiders

According to manager Shelley Duncan, Will Warren is on the path to becoming a formidable major league pitcher. Duncan emphasized that pitchers who possess a diverse repertoire of pitches, including multiple types of fastballs, can keep hitters guessing. When Warren fully refines his command and combines it with his existing skill set, he has the potential to become a highly effective pitcher, Duncan noted.

How rapidly is he progressing toward becoming a Major League pitcher? Could he be a viable option to make the team’s roster directly from spring training, particularly considering the potential absence of Luis Severino and other uncertainties in the rotation?

Hayden Wesneski, a former Yankees prospect who was traded to the Cubs, serves as a kind of model for Will Warren. Warren observed the quick ascent of Hayden Wesneski, a fellow Yankees pitcher from the Southland Conference who generated trade interest last year, was eventually traded to the Cubs, and promptly made his MLB debut.

Warren had been aspiring to follow a similar path, albeit without the trade, and hoped to reach the Majors this season. Despite encountering challenges at the Triple-A level, it seems he has managed to navigate through them effectively.

Will Warren expressed his desire to reach the major leagues, stating that if it doesn’t happen this year, he’s confident it will occur next year.

Edgar Barclay’s changeup story

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If you have reservations about Edgar Barclay—a left-handed pitcher who is making his way through the Yankees’ minor league system, relying more on deception than overpowering stuff—you’re not alone.

Barclay, originally from Hawaii, was determined to pursue his baseball dreams, even when his options seemed to suggest giving up.

After high school, his most viable option was Central Arizona College, a junior college where he caught the eye of a coach during a California tournament. Later, he spent his sophomore year at GateWay Community College, where he attempted unsuccessfully to increase the velocity of his 83-85 mph fastball, which had kept him off the radar of scouts.

Edgar Barclay, a 15th-round draft pick in 2019, relies on a fastball that typically sits in the low 90s.

Subsequently, he took a year off to improve his physical condition and build muscle in the hopes of increasing his fastball velocity.

Barclay mentioned that the coach from Cal State Bakersfield observed one of his bullpen sessions, during which he was hitting speeds of up to 90 miles per hour.

While it may not have been sufficient on its own to easily handle college hitters, this improvement bolstered his pitching repertoire and allowed Barclay to make significant strides. In his 2019 season in Bakersfield, he achieved a 3.69 ERA with 111 strikeouts and a mere 28 walks over 90 ⅓ innings. This performance turned the once unlikely prospect, who had been out of college just a year prior, into a 15th-round draft pick for the Yankees.

Although velocity remains a challenge for the 25-year-old, Barclay has discovered methods to effectively retire batters by offering a unique approach.

Standing at 5-foot-10 and employing a lower release point than most pitchers, Barclay’s pitching style tends to baffle opposing hitters. According to Johnson, “I don’t think we’ve fully comprehended why his 88-to-92 [mph fastball] is more effective than some guys’ 95-to-96 [mph], but he’s definitely one of those players who make it work.”

The statement suggested that he has a knack for making the overall result greater than the sum of its individual components.

Edgar Barclay has earned comparisons to Nestor Cortes, although he doesn’t employ quirky deliveries to the same extent as Cortes.

His arsenal consists of a fastball, now residing in the low 90s, featuring good ride and deception. This pitch pairs effectively with his standout offering, a changeup that mirrors the fastball but includes deceptive movement. The left-hander also incorporates a slider into his repertoire.

Barclay has been in various roles within the Yankees organization, transitioning from a multi-inning reliever to a starter during this season, a role that might become more permanent. He excelled in Double-A Somerset, where he recorded a remarkable 1.32 ERA across 34 innings before advancing to Triple-A in early August, encountering similar challenges as Will Warren did.

It’s possible that Barclay is successfully navigating these struggles as well. His most recent performance was his finest, striking out eight batters and allowing only one run over five innings in Columbus on Sunday.

While Edgar Barclay is often likened to Nestor Cortes, another left-handed pitcher who incorporates unorthodox elements into his game and doesn’t rely on overpowering velocity, Cortes tinkers with his windup and arm slots more frequently than Barclay. In contrast, Barclay tends to rely more consistently on his changeup as his primary weapon for retiring hitters.

Johnson indicated that eventually, people might begin to wonder why this individual hasn’t been given an opportunity yet. He also emphasized that it would ultimately be up to the person in question to take full advantage of any opportunity that arises.

Scranton’s sleeper starter

Yankees prospect Mitch Spence is pitching for Triple-A RailRiders
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Mitch Spence‘s consistent performance in Triple-A this season has earned him recognition from both his manager and pitching coach.

When asked about Yankees prospects who might not have received enough attention, both manager Stump Duncan and pitching coach Graham Johnson singled out another starting pitcher.

While Mitch Spence’s statistics may not immediately stand out, it’s important to note that impressive numbers are a rarity in the current hitter-friendly environment of the league. His 4.56 ERA ranked 16th among the 59 pitchers in the International League who had made at least 15 starts as of Thursday.

Spence has been a reliable contributor to the RailRiders, tallying 144 strikeouts and 47 walks over 150 innings.

The 25-year-old boasts a diverse pitch mix, featuring a mid-90s fastball with a “natural cut,” as described by Duncan. Duncan also expressed confidence in Spence’s potential to become a major league player.

According to Johnson, Mitch Spence is a person who deserves greater recognition and consideration from a wider audience.

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