The Pittsburgh Pirates could add more depth to their bullpen by claiming talented right-handed relief pitcher, Art Warren, off waviers.
During the 2020 season the bullpen was extremely inconsistent for the Pittsburgh Pirates. At one point they were one of the worst bullpens in the league. By mid-season, they were bottom 10 in ERA (5.00), 25th in FIP (5.06) and 25th in WHIP (1.43).
However, from that point on, Pittsburgh Pirates relievers produced a 4.22 ERA, 4.55 FIP and 1.29 WHIP. In their defense, nearly 20% of their earned runs were given up by the likes of Tyler Bashlor (8), Miguel Del Pozo (7), Yacksel Rios (4) and Robbie Erlin (2) who all combined for less than 20 innings pitched. Three of these four are no longer in the organization.
While the Pittsburgh Pirates do have a few solid arms such as Richard Rodriguez and Chris Stratton, some relief pitchers with some potential like Geoff Hartlieb, Nik Turley and Bashlor with prospects like Nick Mears and Blake Cederlind, it could always use some improvement and depth. Right now, they have an opportunity to add an arm with a fair amount of potential. Recently, the Texas Rangers designated right-handed pitcher Art Warren for assignment. Warren would be a strong addition to the Pirate bullpen.
Warren was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 23rd round of the 2015 MLB Draft. Warren began his professional career as a starting pitcher in 2016 where he tossed 110.2 innings posting a 3.17 ERA, 3.20 FIP and 1.43 WHIP between Low-A and High-A.
However, Warren was moved to the bullpen in 2017. While at High-A again, the right-hander tossed 64.2 innings out of the bullpen posting a 3.06 ERA, 3.50 FIP and 1.28 WHIP. Although his walk rate remained relatively similar from 2016-2017 (9.4% to 9.2%) and his HR/9 went up (0.2 to 0.7), his strikeout rate skyrocketed from 19% to 24.7%.
Warren was promoted to Double-A in 2018 and got off to a strong start. Although he walked 14 of the 69 batters he faced, he allowed no home runs in 15.2 innings of work, struck out 22 batters, allowed just 10 hits and three earned runs. But his promising season was cut short by Tommy John surgery.
In 2019, Warren picked up where he left off. He started the year as the closer at the Double-A levle for the Mariners, saving 15 games. In 31.2 innings Warren pitched to the tune of a strong 1.71 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 2.50 FIP. He kept his strong strikeout rate with a 32% strikeout rate and his strong home run rate of just 0.3 HR/9, but his walk rate dramatically improved. After walking batters at a 20.3% rate in 2018, he walked just 10.2% of the batters he faced in 2019.
Warren’s strong performance earned him a call to the Majors. While he only threw 5.1 innings, Warren did not allow a run, he allowed just two hits, walked two batters, and struck out five. By the end of the season, MLB Pipeline ranked Warren as Seattle’s 25th best prospect.
After the 2020 regular season, the Rangers claimed Warren off waivers. However, he was just designated for assignemnt by Texas to make room for Japanese signee Kohei Arihara. But despite being put on waivers twice in the past six months, Art Warren has a decent amount of potential.
Warren has a 70-grade fastball per FanGraphs. Warren works in the upper-90s with this pitch. While he only averaged 2202 RPM on the pitch in his small sample size in 2019, it’s far from an ineffective pitch. Warren showed plus movement with the pitch with 13.6 inches of 13.6 inches of vertical drop (8% better than average) and 8 inches of horizontal break (5% better than average).
His slider is a nasty pitch. Not only does it have significant vertical drop (40.9 inches) and horizontal break (6 inches), Warren can average around 2600 RPM on the pitch. His third pitch is a curveball, which he averaged nearly 2800 RPM on in the minors.
Each pitch significantly varies in speed. While he can touch 96+ MPH with his fastball, his slider averages out in the mid-to-high 80s. Then his curveball, which can break over a foot vertically, comes in at the high-70s, low-80s.
Warren’s only issue is his control, but it’s never been that big of a problem. An 8-10% walk rate with his strikeout rate and low home run rate is more than manageable. He did struggle with walks at High-A in 2016 and Double-A in 2018, but one was a 15.2 inning sample size before having Tommy John surgery and the other was in 13 games, six of which were starts and in his first full pro season. This would be a very low risk move that could pay dividends in the long run.