Getting named to the Arizona Fall League is a surefire sign that a player in on the big league club’s radar. It is a shot to compete against the best prospects from across baseball and has been the launching pad for many invites to the following big league Spring Training.
Austin Warren is headed to the AFL after pitching across 4 levels of minor league ball in 2 years. Along the way he has tallied 115 strikeouts in 85 innings. With the additional command of a third pitch, Austin could be competing for a role in the Angels bullpen as early as next year.
The fast rising reliever from UNC Wilmington took some time to talk about that honor and his hopes for 2020 during a brief trip back home between his stint in Mobile and the upcoming AFL. He was very relaxed, straight forward, and with just enough Southern charm to be both respectful and authentic.
You can follow Austin’s ascent to Anaheim on on Twitter @austinwarren96
Austin, thanks for the time and congratulations on being selected to the Arizona Fall League. How did you find out you were going to the AFL?
“Hi, thank you. I was in Mobile after activation. I got a call from the coaches, they were really really excited for me and I’m excited to go out and compete with those guys.”
Where are you now?
“I’m in North Carolina.”
That’s where you are originally from, right?
“Yes. I got back home yesterday.”
And when are the Angels sending you back out to Tempe to get ready for the AFL?
“I leave Sunday (Sept. 8). I got my flight information today. I’ll get to Arizona Sunday night. I’ll do some workouts there at the Angels facility. They’ll put us in a hotel. I guess we’ll do a couple of practices out there then they’ll get us fitted for our uniforms and pants and all that good stuff before the first game on the 18th.”
Cool. And a couple of your Mobile teammates are headed out there, most notably Jo Adell. You’re a pitcher. When you watch him in the box, how do you assess his swing?
“Probably the best BP hitter, and in the game hitter. Ball bounces off the bat. I mean, he’ll hit balls out the park on a line.
Also Brandon Marsh and Jahmai Jones, two great other guys who are going. I’m just glad I got to play for them for about a month and a half before going to the Fall League. I got to know them a little better and I’m looking forward to doing this.”
I’ve interviewed Jahmai a few times and he comes across as about the nicest guy you’ll meet.
“Yeah. Great guy.”
You mentioned you spent a month and a half playing with them. The Angels have sent you up the ladder very, very quickly. Have they talked to you about their plans at all?
“Not really plans. I think I’m just putting up good numbers from when I started. And in AA I put up pretty good numbers for the stint I was there. I mean, that’s what they want us doing, putting up good numbers.
Strikeouts, high strikeouts, low walks. That’s the deal, stuff like that.
Overall I feel like I had a pretty good year with that and luckily enough I got promoted and kept doing well.”
You’ve done four levels in two years.
Now you’re going to the AFL which is usually an indicator you do well in the AFL and you got big boy camp in March. Is that your goal or expectation?
“That’s my goal. Hopefully. I haven’t heard anything. That’s probably stuff you don’t hear about until the end of December or early January.
But if I can go to the Fall League and keep putting up good numbers and so forth, then hopefully I get a call to come out early for Spring Training, which would be really cool.”
Some guys go to Spring Training early, before the official pitchers and catchers report, right?
“Yeah, it’s like a JIC camp. Just In Case guys. That’s what its call, JIT camp. Like backing up big leaguers and stuff like that.
You get to meet some of the bigger guys, be around, get to know them. Me, I like being around guys like that because I can learn from them. And I can keep that in the back of my head for the future.”
Now were you working on anything this year or were you focused on results? Because I know in the minor leagues those can sometimes be two different things.
“Definitely. I went to Spring Training about a week and a half early this year. I started playing with a change up and I’ve been working with that all year and I’ve started getting good results with it.
So I felt good going up to the mound knowing I have three pitches every time now: fastball, slider, change up. Definitely felt better having three pitches with one being a little slower pitch to kind of keep guys on their toes, not knowing whats coming.
I worked on that and having good numbers. Sometimes I didn’t always get them. My walks were kind of up this year; more than you’d like but I think that was me just trying to be too fine with the umpires and I should have just trusted my stuff a little better and filled up the zone.
Some of the hits I just tip my cap to them and go from there. I just need to let the defense play behind me and go from there.”
And you had a really good defense in Mobile. I don’t don’t know all of those guys but I’ve seen Adell cover some ground.
I know how fast Jones is. You’ll have a great defense behind you when you get up here with Trout, Simba, Fletcher. Don’t be afraid to let some guys put some wood on the ball.
“I noticed once I started moving up to higher levels they play the shift more. So some of the hits that maybe went up the middle we had a guy there. So that’s definitely better when you’re pitching. You feel a lot better when you know you got a guy there. It just makes it easier to pitch.”
I imagine so. So when you see the signal come in from the dugout and you see guys moving around going into a shift, does that enter your mind when you’re on the mound? Like when a catcher throws a sign down you know it might get hit but it will go into the shift?
“Absolutely. I mean baseball is baseball. Hitters nowadays are going to sometimes barrel it up. You just got to get a little lucky and hopefully there’s a guy there.
But at this level if a guy gets a hit off you or you make a mistake or don’t make a mistake and it still gets hit you just got to tip your hat, move on to the next batter, and go from there.”
You went to college. I imagine a guy with your skill set would have had the opportunity to go to minor league ball right out of high school. Am I right?
“I don’t know. I didn’t have much size, I still don’t have much size, I just had a bunch of confidence.
But I actually didn’t start pitching until my sophomore year of college. I was a two way guy going into UNCW my junior year and the coaching staff called me and we talked about it and I ended up hanging up the bat.
After that I was putting up good numbers, the draft came along, and the Angels picked me. My dad was a pitcher he was drafted in 85 or 86 by the White Sox so he’s given me some good pointers as I matured as a pitcher.
I’m just glad to be where I am now, with a good organization, and I’m just thankful.”
You’re aware this is an organization that will fast track guys, right?
Personally, I love that.
“We have talks about that; guys in the pen. Angels will track you quick and we all like that. Guys in other organizations are putting up good numbers but they’re stuck there. That’s hard, but that’s how it is.”
I think all I would want is an opportunity, a legit opportunity.
“That’s how it is. If you get an opportunity you go out and do your thing and end up putting up good numbers, they like to see that stuff.”
So away from the ballpark, what do you do to keep yourself occupied?
“In Mobile we usually hang around with the guys, play some cards. I play a little video games. I tend to get to bed pretty early because our days are long.
But in the off season I do a lot of fishing and hunting. My whole family is into hunting and fishing. We got land and a beach house, so I’m usually there.
And playing catch, lifting, stuff like that before Spring Training to get ready. You can’t to into Spring Training not ready. They’ll know and they’ll see it.”
Being and East Coast guy I have to imagine you grew up around plenty of Five Guys with Fries, right?
But you’ve been out here now, Inland Empire and Tempe. Have you had a chance to eat at In-N-Out Burger?
“Oh yeah. In-N-Out is great.”
So the one question we ask everybody who gets interviewed here is which one is better, In-N-Out or Five Guys?
“Ummm....that’s a tough question. I think the burgers are a little better at In-N-Out but definitely the fries at Five Guys.”
You’ll be about the third or fourth person to answer that way.
You’ve hit all the major questions. Is there any last thing you want people to know about you, some mindset you’d like to share?
“Yeah, that size doesn’t matter. If you have confidence, no matter what size you are you can take that out on to the field every day and dominate.”
That’s a perfect way to wrap up this interview. Thanks for the time and best of luck in the AFL. I look forward to seeing you in Tempe next Spring.
“Thank you. Appreciate it.”