Tag Archives: Zach Warren

Sorting the pitching should be the story of 2020 spring training

There are a number of story lines set to play out as the Philadelphia Phillies open their formal spring training with workouts this week down in Clearwater, Florida. None is more important than the battles for a number of spots on the club’s Opening Day pitching staff.

New manager Joe Girardi will be paying special attention to the large group of arms in camp. It will be the successful or failure of the pitchers that will largely determine how the club fares over the coming 2020 season.

Also vital will be the ability of Girardi and new pitching coach Bryan Price to sort them all out. The two baseball veterans need to make the right decisions regarding who to keep on the big-league roster, who to stash away in the minor leagues for help later in the season, who to let go, and what roles on the Phillies staff each pitcher is best prepared to fill.

In the rotation, three arms are absolutely set in stone, assuming health. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Jake Arrieta have roles locked up from the outset. Zach Eflin is less experienced and may not be an absolute lock, but he enters camp as a presumptive member of the rotation as well.

Assuming all four come through camp healthy it would leave any others to battle it out for the fifth starter role. Vince Velasquez enters camp as the most likely to fill that slot. His challengers will be right-handers Nick Pivetta and Enyel De Los Santos as well as the lone left-handed starter at the moment, Cole Irvin.

It’s great talent,” Price said of Velasquez and Pivetta per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “But we do have to refine that talent and the productivity.

I think there’s a lot of pitching here that has room to get much better and I’m looking forward to being a part of that any way I can.”

Velasquez will be a special challenge. This is likely his last chance to prove that he can be a reliable starting pitcher for a big-league rotation. If he doesn’t step up in 2020 in that role the likelihood is that he will either be permanently moved to the bullpen or traded away.

The coaches will take a long look at Spencer Howard, but the organization’s top pitching prospect is expected to open the year with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. If the team needs an emergency starter early in the season the opportunity will likely go to someone else. But by no later than June, Howard should be ready to fill any such rotation opening.

Southpaws JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez and righty prospect Adonis Medina are in camp and still viewed as potential big-league starting pitchers. All are lower on the organizational depth chart and would only see an increased role if a series of disastrous injuries should strike.

The bullpen is the place where there will be plenty of competition involving experienced veterans and talented youngsters. Some of the more interesting battles of the spring and some of the biggest roster surprises emerge from the relief pitching corps.

Right-handed relievers in camp from the Phillies current 40-man roster include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Tommy Hunter, Edgar Garcia, Deolis Guerra, Reggie McClain, and Robert Stock. Neris, who has a contract arbitration hearing this month, is the presumptive closer.

Dominguez could be a particularly impactful addition after missing most of 2019 with an arm injury that both he and the club feared might require Tommy John surgery. Fact is, the talented 25-year-old may not be completely out of the woods yet. But he is ready to go at this point.

You get a Seranthony Dominguez that can stay healthy for the whole year, that’s a huge addition,” Girardi said per Matt Breen at The Inquirer. “You’re talking about a guy that was a closer and an eighth-inning guy that wasn’t there a good portion of the season.

Bud Norris, Blake Parker, Trevor Kelley, Anthony Swarzak, and Drew Storen are the more experienced members of a large group of non-roster invitee right-handed relievers. Each of them has the ability to make the club with a big spring.

From the left side, the 40-man roster group includes Jose Alvarez, Adam Morgan, Austin Davis, and newcomer Cristopher Sanchez. Non-roster southpaws in camp will include Francisco Liriano, Zach Warren, Tyler Gilbert, and prospects Kyle Dohy and Damon Jones.

Any of the arms who lose out in the fifth starter contest could also find a bullpen role. However, it is more likely that Pivetta, Irvin, or De Los Santos would instead be assigned to Lehigh Valley in order to remain stretched out as a starting pitcher.

In my pre-spring training evaluation and rankings of the starting pitching rotations for the teams in the National League East Division the Phillies came out fourth. The club came out third in my bullpen rankings thanks largely to those increased depth options.

If you look at this club last year, there were a lot of injuries, especially in the bullpen,” said Girardi per Evan Macy at The Philly Voice. “I did about five Phillies games at MLB Network and every time there was a different bullpen.

Girardi almost certainly remembered that situation when he took charge of the Phillies and pushed GM Matt Klentak to provide him with more potential veteran options. The bullpen now appears to have far more depth of legitimate talent this time around to weather any repeat of such an injury storm.

NOTE: As this piece was being published, De Los Santos became the first official casualty of spring. Matt Gelb reported that the pitcher injured his hamstring and will be out for a few weeks. Considering all of the competition this almost assures that he starts the regular season at Triple-A.

 

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Zach Warren named as Low-A Lakewood BlueClaws POY

By Ted Kerwin - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38601940
This guy is not the BlueClaws Player of the Year
(Photo: Ted Kerwin)
The Lakewood BlueClaws became the ‘Low-A’ minor league affiliates of the Philadelphia Phillies beginning with their relocation to that New Jersey community for the 2000 season.
The BlueClaws play their home games at FirstEnergy Park. Built in 2001, the ballpark seats nearly 6,600 fans and has hosted outdoor concerts by big names, including the legendary Bob Dylan.
Lakewood, New Jersey is approximately 69 miles northeast of Philadelphia. It is about an hour-and-twenty-minute drive starting out either on I-95 or the New Jersey Turnpike, and finishing up along I-195.
In the 2018 season the BlueClaws finished in first place in the North Division of the South Atlantic League. In fact, their 87-51 mark was the best by far in the entire SAL.
Despite their fantastic regular season, Lakewood fell short of a championship. The BlueClaws swept Kannapolis by 2-0 in the playoff semi-finals, then edged Lexington by 6-5 in the opener of the finals. However, Lexington roared back to take three straight by scores of 5-2, 6-3, and 2-1 to capture the SAL championship.
This year’s BlueClaws Player of the Year is Zach Warren. The 6-5, 200lb reliever turned 22-years-old in early June. He was the Phillies 14th round choice in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Tennessee.
The hard-throwing southpaw reliever registered 15 Saves this season, appearing in 39 games. Over that span the lefty dominated opposing hitters, allowing just 33 hits across 56.2 innings with a 100/28 K:BB ratio.
Warren fashioned a 3-2 record with a 1.91 ERA, a 1.076 WHIP, and was tagged for just two home runs this year. He became the closer for the BlueClaws in June after starting out the season in middle relief.
Patrick Mulranen for the Press of Atlantic City quoted Warren on the change in role back in the middle of July:

“It’s different. I had things to work out in the beginning of the year to get that consistency that I wanted. But now I feel like my mechanics, my plan and my pitches are all coming together at the right time, and it’s giving me the ability to execute pitches and get guys out.”

Zach has been a privilege to work with this year,” Lakewood pitching coach Brad Bergesen said per Mulranen. “He is an extremely hard worker. He is very diligent with his preparation…He has found himself in that (closer) role and has done a tremendous job…Every single day, we really preach preparation here. That has been our big thing, and he has been a guy that really takes that seriously. He is very routine-oriented. … You can tell he does everything with an intent…I think he has a great feel for what he is doing. He’s got a great curveball and fastball mix. I’m very pleased with how he’s doing right now.”

A native of Vineland, New Jersey, Warren grew up as a huge Phillies fan during last decade’s fabulous winning era. As he told Mulranen, that has given him additional motivation to reach the big-leagues and eventual wear the red pinstripes:
“It’s an awesome feeling. The pitchers that I model myself after — Cole HamelsCliff Lee, a lot of guys like that — it is cool to play in the same organization that they left a big mark on.”
As with Ben Pelletier, named yesterday as the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters Player of the Year, Warren has not yet shown up on any of the Phillies top prospect lists. However, there is always a place for a tough lefty reliever. 
Should he repeat his dominating performance when next season gets underway, Warren is sure to begin popping up on evaluator radar screens.
Originally published by Phillies Nation as “Lakewood BlueClaws Player of the Year: Zach Warren