Everything is clicking for 'late bloomer' starting pitcher in Yankees organization

·4 min read

WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. — Will Warren never expected all of this.

Not pitching at Southeastern Louisiana University, and certainly not as a smaller guy and self-described “late bloomer.”

“If you’ve got something special, then people will find a way to find you,” Warren said from inside Dutchess Stadium, where he’s currently pitching for the Yankees High-A affiliate, the Hudson Valley Renegades.

Now 22, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound right-hander didn’t truly break out until his junior year, parlaying a short but successful stint in the New England Collegiate Baseball League that offseason into a change in both his mentality and his body that’s taken him a long way ever since.

“I started working my tail off,” he said. “Mentally, it was about thinking this was all actually a possibility, a dream, I guess. But it really changed the way I went about the way I worked on my game.”

Will Warren gets set to throw a pitch for the Hudson Valley Renegades.
Will Warren gets set to throw a pitch for the Hudson Valley Renegades.

Where he is, is on the precipice of a call-up to Double-A Somerset, having established himself as the top arm in High-A; the Brandon, Miss. native has posted a 1-2 record and 2.49 ERA in his first six starts this season, racking up 34 strikeouts in just 25.1 innings of work while pitching to a 0.95 WHIP.

That he started in Hudson Valley, roughly a 90-minute drive from TD Bank Ballpark, but a far trip both in distance and competition from Low-A Tampa, where some expected he’d start his pro career, speaks volumes about how the Yankees viewed last year’s eighth-round pick, but also speaks to the accomplishment of an ambitious goal he set for himself in spring training.

“The Yankees are tough with moving guys through, there’s a lot of talent in our organization,” Warren said. “So, I set the goal that I wanted to set myself apart and be (at) the highest (level) I could, so High-A was my goal. It happened. I think I just worked my tail off to show off what I’ve got, that this is the guy they drafted and that they’re going to get for however long.

"I’ve changed a lot in that small amount of time, and I’ve learned a lot from talking to older guys. I always want to be a student of the game.”

Those “older” guys? Well, they’re not much older than Warren himself. He says former Southland Conference opponent and current Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders pitcher Hayden Wesneski is one he’s relied on, as well as current Somerset starters Ken Waldichuk, Mitch Spence and Sean Boyle.

Warren is hopeful to soon join them, and his current manager, Tyson Blaser, is pleased with the steps his young starter has taken thus far to get to that point, especially with a developing slider that’s swept through the Yankees organization

“I think it’s a thing for him, as an objective, is just to continue to get better with that pitch,” Blaser said.

“He’s got a fastball that really plays and has got some good qualities, and it’s a tough pitch to hit. So, if we can develop that slider, there’s something there that we’re really, really excited about.”

Warren uses his slider often, throwing a slightly different version of the “whirly” that Waldichuk and others have implemented over the past several years.

“I changed my slider with the Yankees, but I don’t know if you’d call it the ‘whirly,’” Warren said. “(Yankees pitching director) Sam (Briend) jokes around and says it’s the ‘unicorn.’ I guess I’ve got something unique.”

He worked with former Yankees pitcher Preston Claiborne on developing the pitch this offseason, and took to it right away.

“He was like, ‘Hey, throw this, try this,’” Warren recalled. “So, I throw it, and it was terrible, because it was the first one. Throw a second one, it was terrible, but I was like, ‘I think I got it.’ And then I ripped it the next time, and it was perfect. I can remember turning around, jaw dropped, like, ‘What was that, what did you just teach me,’ I’m a big feel guy, I felt that, and I wanted to feel it again”

Something has, unquestionably, clicked for Warren at the High-A level, and he has the makeup and stuff to be a quick mover through an organization that has a logjam of big league-ready at pitching at the upper levels.

He says he follows what’s going on at the higher levels through social media, and uses a lot of what he sees as a friendly sort of competition to try to match some of the outings he’s seeing from them, but is doing his best to stay in the moment and not think too much about a seemingly inevitable trip to Somerset.

“You’re not waiting around, it’s more like, be present, be where your feet are,” he said. “We’re with Hudson Valley right now, so we’re trying to go win every game and do the best we can for our team. Ultimately, that success will lead to you getting called up.”

This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Will Warren excelling in Yankees' minors, could join Somerset Patriots