I spent the better part of last week traveling across the state of Florida to see the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League (FSL).
This step, from Low-A Charleston to High-A Tampa, is great for these kids, as they get special treatment with shorter bus rides (their longest trip is to Jupiter and Port St. Lucie, a mere four hour ride) than when playing in the Sally League.*
*I talked with Graham Stoneburner and Shaeffer Hall, two mid-season promotions from Charleston, and they both agreed the shorter bus rides were a relief. Stoneburner mentioned the 14-hour ride from Charleston to Lakewood, NJ for a four-game set was too long.
Charleston has to make that trip again in late July.
Plus, these kids get to play ball all season in George M. Steinbrenner Stadium, the same building which the major leaguers ply their trade every spring training. One issue I saw with the FSL is that the stands are mostly empty.
The Sally League gets many more paying customers.
This Tampa team has a few good young hitters, and a couple other decent position players.
The meat and potatoes of this team, however, is the pitching staff. At the time of my witnessing these games, there had been two former Tampa starting pitchers promoted to Double-A Trenton (Hector Noesi and Andrew Brackman), plus another who likely would be moving up soon in Adam Warren.
And on the day I returned from Tampa, Warren was indeed promoted to Trenton.
Even after the promotions, The Tampa rotation continues to be good, with the additions of those two Charleston call ups, right-handed flamethrower Graham Stoneburner and left-handed control artist Shaeffer Hall.
These roster moves gave the Tampa Yankees a rotation of Warren, Stoneburner, Hall, Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos. Both Betances and Banuelos are coming off injuries, with Dellin having elbow surgery last season and Man-Ban having an appendectomy this past spring.
I did not see Betances in either of his starts, so I will not be commenting on anything specific.
All five starters are good enough to eventually pitch in Trenton, a few of them now. Here is my capsule on the first pitcher, Adam Warren.
I will talk about Warren’s pitches and ability, but also use a major leaguer as a comparison to style. This comparison is similar in style, but this does not mean the specific Tampa pitcher will have that type of career.
Adam Warren: RHP 6’1″, 200 lbs.
Since he has already been promoted, lets start with him.
Two words: Nothing special. But that is not a negative.
He does not have mind-blowing velocity, not a single dominant out pitch where you say, “wow, this kid has great stuff.”
But he is going to be pretty good, with his stuff representing a No. 4 type starter, while his command, ability to pitch and mound demeanor are all ace material.
I saw him twice, and he was exactly the same both times. Warren keeps everything down in the zone, with a four-seam fastball, a nice sinking fastball, smart change up and a slider/cutter.
He did throw a curve ball, but not very much.
Warren has a very easy delivery, “straight to the plate” on every pitch. He lands with a slightly closed front foot and uses his thick lower body to create nice hip rotation, giving him that easy velocity. I can see him even adding another couple ticks, likely working at a consistent 92-94 as he matures.
Everything was thrown for strikes, and with Warren moving the ball in and out very well, he was effective in getting swings and misses on all of his pitches.
He faced the same team, the Brevard County Manatees, both times, and was more effective the second time around. The first game saw him go seven innings, allowing five hits, but two walks and a hit batter. He got out of two jams, allowing a single unearned run.
In game two, however, Warren was flat out dominant. He only threw five innings, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out nine Manatees.
It was interesting, but even though Warren was great, he was rarely ahead of any hitters in the second game, regularly going to three ball counts early in the game. But he always came back to get the strikeout or obtain a weakly batted ball.
Warren will keep a hitter’s BABIP way down with the way he comes inside with his hard sinking fastball.
That pitch was usually 91-93 MPH, but he did ratchet it up to 94 a few times in the fourth and fifth innings, and hit 95 in the fourth inning. His change up was around 81, and his slider came in anywhere from 82-85. The slider had good bite, generating swings and misses and balls hit off the handle or the end of the bat.
His change up has good movement against left handed hitters, and I said earlier, it is always down in the zone. He threw a two-seam fastball in the upper 80’s also with good movement.
As I said, Warren does not have one great pitch, but knows how to pitch. He sends hitters back to the bench feeling comfortable with their zero per night.
They weren’t dominated with great stuff, just great pitching.
After the fifth inning one of the pitchers said, “he is probably done for tonight.” There was a feeling around the players that Warren was probably going to be promoted soon. There were no more statements to be made about pitching in the FSL.
When I asked about a possible promotion, Warren was a typical Yankee farmhand. He took the traditional Yankee high road and said he had “no control over those matters,” and he will pitch “wherever they want me to.”
On the mound, Warren reminds me of Greg Maddux, with his ability to throw all his pitches for strikes, issuing very few walks and with great ball movement.
Still, with quite a few starting pitcher prospects above Warren (McAllister, Nova, Noesi, DJ Mitchell, David Phelps) and a few equal (Brackman, plus a few others in Tampa), Warren is the kind of a guy who can be a major trade chip one day.
UPDATE: Adam Warren was, in fact, later offered to Seattle for Cliff Lee as a replacement for David Adams, but the Mariners still turned down the Yankees. I believe Seattle made a mistake here in taking the Texas Rangers deal.