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Adam Warren, Yankees fifth starter: what can we expect?

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Adam Warren
Adam Warren
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Multiple sources reported yesterday that the New York Yankees have named Adam Warren as their fifth starter This was rumored for a couple of weeks but finally became official. Although he got rouged up a bit in a recent minor league outing, his overall performance this spring has been just fine: 2.70 ERA in 17 innings, 11/1 K/BB, 17 hits.

This news prompted a mailbag question yesterday from "Jim" in Raleigh, North Carolina.

"I like Joe Girardi's decision to make Adam Warren the fifth starter. I remember him pitching in college and he was usually pretty tough, and looking over his minor league record he was good as a starter until the Yankees made him a reliever in 2013. Am I nuts or is Warren somebody who could win 14 games this year?"

You are not nuts, Jim. As you obviously remember, Warren started four years for the University of North Carolina and was quite successful, going 32-4, 3.42 in 276 innings over four years, 2006 through 2009. Keep in mind that was with the older metal bats that made college baseball very offense-heavy at the time.

The Yankees drafted him in the fourth round in '09. He zipped through the low minors quickly, reached Triple-A in 2011 then started two seasons for Scranton with okay results, 3.66 ERA over 305 innings, 218/99 K/BB. That isn't spectacular by International League standards but he was a solid inning-eater and he stayed healthy.

The Yankees have used him almost exclusively as a reliever the last two seasons although for many clubs he would have had a starting role. He's run up 158 innings in the majors with a 3.42 ERA, 141/56 K/BB, 3.78 FIP (including 2.89 last year).

His arsenal is diverse enough to start: two and four-seam fastballs, hitting every spot in the 89-97 range and averaging around 94. Perhaps his velocity will take a peg down as a starter, but he's got a slider, a curve, and a change-up to mix with it and his control is generally quite good.

He's averaged 78 innings in his two big league seasons and they will have to be a little careful with his workload, getting his arm conditioned back into the starting role. I doubt this will be a big problem: he was durable in both college and the minors and averaged over 140 innings per minor league season without ill effect before coming to the majors.

Now, I don't know if he'll "win 14 games" or not; you can't really predict won-loss records since too many other factors come into play. But can Warren pitch a good 170-180 innings with solid, above-average per-inning results? Seems very possible to me. And if he gets enough run support fantasy owners could very well get some wins out of him.