Yankees’ pitching prospect ready to fill rotation slot as fifth starter
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The Yankees were forced to part ways with Michael King and budding rotation talents to acquire power hitter Juan Soto from the Padres. In the negotiation process, they had to make a choice between their top pitching prospects and a contributor, who logged significant innings in 2023.
Ultimately, the Yankees yielded to the Padres’ demands to some extent, relinquishing Drew Thorpe along with valuable swingmen Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez. Both Brito and Vásquez played crucial roles in 2023, with Brito notably making significant contributions in late-game relief appearances spanning two or three innings. Following the departure of Thorpe, Chase Hampton is poised to step into the role of the “Double-A/Triple-A Vaunted Arm,” and there is a sense of confidence within the Yankees that they have the necessary depth to assume the responsibilities of Brito and Vásquez, potentially as early as Opening Day.
According to a recent assessment by FanGraphs of the Yankees’ top 36 prospects, Will Warren, who holds the sixth position, is being touted as a potential contender for a spot in the team’s Opening Day rotation. The analysis expresses enthusiasm, stating that despite not being on the 40-man roster, Warren is arguably in a more favorable position to secure a spot in the Yankees’ 2024 rotation compared to other pitchers.
Yankees seem to favor Will Warren for rotation
Warren’s advancement, particularly in refining his sweeper throughout the 2023 season, suggests that he is on the verge of making a breakthrough, regardless of whether Yoshinobu Yamamoto assumes the role of the rotation’s co-ace or not.
Whether it’s a resounding “Yamamoto” or a less favorable “Yamamot-No,” the Yankees will still have a demand for valuable innings in the upcoming 2024 season. Considering the unpredictability of injuries, no unbiased observer expected Jhony Brito to contend for a spot in the rotation last season. However, unforeseen circumstances, such as injuries to Carlos Rodón, Frankie Montas, and Nestor Cortes, opened up opportunities. The same could happen again in the upcoming season, making it likely that Clarke Schmidt, who experienced a significant year-over-year increase with a remarkable 101.1-inning surge, will require support at some point.
Regardless of whether the Yankees secure the most talked-about name in free agency, there’s a probable need to reunite with Montas for essential depth and lean on Will Warren’s evolving skill set sooner rather than later.
Fortunately, the decision-makers express confidence in the 24-year-old right-handed pitcher’s ability to generate strikeouts, following in the footsteps of recent departures such as Brito, Vásquez, Hayden Wesneski, and Ken Waldichuk. Warren shares a notable strength with Wesneski: an impactful breaking pitch that enabled him to dominate Triple-A as the season progressed. Despite a June ERA of 5.17 and a July ERA of 6.14, Warren’s batting average against decreased from .292 to .241. He became less susceptible to hits, and his efforts paid dividends in the latter part of the season, with a 3.67 ERA in August and an impressive performance in September, reminiscent of Michael King, allowing only two earned runs in 28.2 innings.
Whether Warren is called upon in March or later in the season, he is undoubtedly poised for a significant role in the big leagues in the upcoming season. Ideally, he will navigate any initial nerves and sidestep an adjustment period, akin to Brito, his predecessor, who made an immediate impact and continued to thrive in a new role after the league caught up.
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