Modesto, California —— At the top of this post, watch one of our pitching mechanics scouting videos of Seattle Mariners right-handed pitching prospect Art Warren, taken from an outing he made last week for the Modesto Nuts in the High-A California League against the visiting Lake Elsinore Storm. To visit Art Warren’s player page, please click here. And please subscribe to the Baseball Census YouTube channel here for hundreds more videos like this one.
Art Warren scouting report notes
A lot has changed in Art Warren since I saw him pitch last summer for the Bakersfield Blaze. The 24-year-old from Ashland University in Ohio had been a swingman/starter in the Seattle Mariners‘ system last summer, starting 20 games over 27 total appearances split between Bakersfield and Low-A Clinton. This year he’s in the bullpen full-time, and his stuff has played up considerably along with his end results: in ten games (18.0 innings pitched), Warren has whiffed 17 batters for the Modesto Nuts, allowing just 14 hits, finishing seven games, and earning a win and a save to go along with a 3.00 ERA. Take out one very bad outing — four earned runs on three hits and four walks in 0.2 innings against Inland Empire on April 25 — and Warren has been nearly untouchable in his new role coming out of the ‘pen.
He’s doing it with a fastball that sits 91-94 mph and tops out at 95 mph with a little bit of arm-side run and very clean, short arm action that hides the ball well before release. Compare that to last year in Bakersfield, when his fastball was only working 88-91 mph, and it’s already evident that Warren’s stuff is playing up in relief, but there’s more to it than that. His curveball, which sat 71-74 mph last year, is slightly harder in 2017 (73-76 mph), but the real story is its action: it’s far sharper this year than in Bakersfield, with better vertical drop and far more consistent command. That’ll make Art Warren unique coming out of the bullpen with a feel pitch like a true overhand curve, and while I may have just seen him on an exceptionally good day with it, that breaking ball has the potential to grow into a true wipeout pitch. At the very least, it offers a very unique look compared to the vast majority of late-inning relievers who live in the fastball/slider realm, and should continue to be difficult to square up.
Warren does have a slider (or a cutter) that he’s developed some this year, an 83-85 mph breaker that distinguishes itself from the curve and offers a tight, late downward break with some horizontal movement glove-side. It should work a little better against lefties than the curve, giving him a way to get in on their hands with something off-speed. Add that to the changeup he threw last year (which also sat in the low 80s) and Warren has quite a few different looks out of the ‘pen and ought not be subject to as many right/left matchup issues as you see in a typical late-inning reliever.
So where does all this good, hard stuff come from? Well, for one, Warren looks a little stronger and broader in his chest and shoulders and a little more streamlined in his lower half than he was last year. And while conditioning and strength training no doubt play a role in the fact that the Seattle Mariners’ farmhand is throwing considerably harder this summer, that doesn’t tell the biggest part of the story.
Watch this Art Warren baseball GIF, taken during his stint last year with the Bakersfield Blaze, and see how radically he locks out his landing (left) kneed and rotates hard to fall off to the first base side after release:
Now, watch this GIF, taken from the same open-faced, third base angle, of Warren throwing this spring for the Modesto Nuts with a slightly softer landing leg and a far more streamlined direction to the plate:
It’s night and day.
In Bakersfield last year, Warren’s knee lock and hard pivot to first base was working to dispel all his energy hard towards the first base line rather than behind the ball towards the plate, wasting it by the end and sapping some of the velocity out of his big, strong frame. He’s landing softer this year, but more importantly, he’s in line from the beginning and he stays soft with his front (left) knee after release, never fully locking out. In turn, that’s allowing him to drive all his energy towards the plate rather than down the first base line, and predictably, he’s touching 95 mph now, too. As he perfects this adjustment, it’ll change a lot for him in time: more consistent command, better control, improved velocity, and—when coupled with his short, clean arm action—better deception to the hitter as he’s hiding the ball a bit better now, especially against right-handed hitters.
Here’s another pair of Art Warren baseball GIFs, for a second look. First, from last year in Bakersfield:
And then this year, a slowed-down look at a pitch he made in Modesto last week, focused on his relative lack of knee lock and rotation compared to last season:
Night. And. Day.
Look, it’s ultimately a minor change, and a relatively easy adjustment after a few months of work. And yes, Warren is 24 years old in High-A and a late-round draft pick from a small school, so the odds are working against him in most every way. That’s fine. But he’s got the makings of a filthy look out of the bullpen here, and I’d imagine if he keeps throwing the ball like this, he’s not far from a promotion to Double-A to see if his arm strength and good stuff can transition into the upper minors. All this coupled with his curveball, which is truly a unique look coming out of the ‘pen, make him an outlier in Modesto right now and a prime candidate to move up soon.
Long term, as is the case with most any reliever like this, Art Warren sits on that fine line between organizational depth and up-and-down reliever. But then again, he was undoubtedly just organizational depth by the end of last year, with middling stuff and unimpressive stats coming out of Bakersfield. Now, with his stuff significantly better and his mechanics streamlined, he’s on the verge of a mini breakout and could get bumped to Double-A to see if he can survive against a comparable age level. From there, I think it’s reasonable to say there’s a shot Art Warren could one day get a few looks at the big leagues as an up-and-down middle relief guy with good stuff and a deep enough repertoire to throw multiple innings.
We’ll see about all that, but seriously, good on the Seattle Mariners for moving Art Warren to the bullpen and for whatever hand they had in his mechanical adjustments, and good on him for airing it all out down there in Modesto. He’s highlighting the Nuts’ bullpen right now, and his arm strength is legit. Don’t confuse him for a top prospect with big league high-leverage innings in his future or anything, but don’t be surprised if he has a nice year in 2017 and lands himself on the big league radar in another year or 18 months. If/when he makes it that way, he’ll have earned it.
To visit Art Warren’s player page, please click here.
Art Warren scouting report: 140 characters or less
A move to the bullpen brought out hard, sharp stuff from Art Warren’s strong arm; that and improved mechanics have him dominant in High-A.
Art Warren scouting report video
Here’s a look at our most recent Art Warren baseball video, taken during a mid-may series for the Modesto Nuts at John Thurman Field:
And here are two of our Art Warren baseball videos taken from the 2016 season, when he pitched for the High-A Bakersfield Blaze, also in the Seattle Mariners’ system:
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Art Warren scouting report GIFs
In addition to our video clips, we broke out some Art Warren baseball GIFs from both 2016 and 2017:
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In this Seattle Mariners / Art Warren scouting report: