How defensive versatility, big bat made Zavier Warren a Brewers draftee
Zavier Warren was pacing in the driveway outside of his Southfield home on the phone with his agent.
Warren's agent told him he the deal was done.
Just as Warren reentered the house full of family and family friends watching on television, they saw his name pop up on the bottom of the screen just before 8 p.m. on June 11.
He had just been selected by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 92nd pick in the 2020 MLB Draft.
"I didn't realize how fast it would happen, it was just exciting for me to be selected, especially in this year," Warren said in a Zoom call with the media June 12. "It was really special for everyone and I'm really excited for the opportunity."
Warren's selection was the highest a CMU player had been drafted since Doug Harrison went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third round of the 1977 MLB Draft and just the sixth Chippewa all-time to go in the first three rounds.
Through all of the accomplishments, Warren said he was proud of being among one of the top picks in program history.
"It's definitely really exciting to be a part of the draft picks of CMU," Warren said. "To be one of the higher ones is a pretty good accomplishment considering what Central Michigan baseball has accomplished and the players that have come through here."
In 2019, Warren had a breakout season at shortstop while hitting .363 and eight home runs and driving in 68 runs. He then went to the Cape Cod League — the top summer league for college players — and had a strong showing at third base and hit .315.
Despite the 2020 season being cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, Warren hit .328 and drove in nine runs in all 17 games — all starts.
After the season ended prematurely, Warren went to work on his fielding and batting practice at some of the high school fields around him.
"I've been working out in my buddy's garage and running," Warren said. "The Central Michigan strength coach, Dylan (Fitchett), has provided us with our summer program and he's modified it based on what equipment you have, that's been a big help because gyms still aren't open yet."
CMU coach Jordan Bischel grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, about 118 miles away from Milwaukee. Bischel's stepfather is a life-long Brewers fan and attended the 1982 World Series, the last time the Brewers advanced to the Fall Classic.
Bischel said he has always paid more attention to the Brewers' picks going to back when he was a child.
Milwaukee had taken Freddy Zamora, a shortstop from Miami (Florida), in the second round of the five-round draft. Bischel said he thought the chances of Warren to be drafted were hurt to be drafted by the Brewers.
Warren was drafted one round later as a catcher.
"When Zav's name popped up, I was standing with my wife and we both had huge smiles and gave each other a big hug," Bischel said. "It's exciting for Zavier, if people were around us the last couple of years and saw the amount of time he invested in himself, in our program and our success, you just wouldn't have any doubt that he deserves every bit of this."
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the 2020 MLB Draft was cut from its usual 40 rounds to just five. In a typical draft, over 1,200 players are selected. This year, just 160 players were chosen.
Different than the NFL Draft, high school seniors are eligible to be picked as are all 21-year-old college players.
"Being a third round pick in this draft is really, really incredible and speaks to the time Zav's put in," Bischel said.
Warren said he is committed to signing with the Brewers organization and not return to CMU. Players have the option to return to school even if they are drafted. They would forfeit the draft position and have to be redrafted.
Bischel said Warren is going to do well with the organization because he has the opportunity.
"He doesn't need to be pushed a whole lot, he does it on his own, he motivates himself and the Brewers are going to be really excited to have him," Bischel said. "He's really going to do well, it's incredibly exciting. It's a lot less to do with me and our program, it has everything to do with what Zavier has put into it. He deserves it."
While Warren has shown he is a versatile defender, he said the Brewers looked at him more because of his bat. In 2019, Warren finished third in runs (73), tied for third in RBIs (70), fourth in hits (90), tied for fourth in extra-base hits (33), fifth in at-bats (244) and sixth in total bases (141).
"My best attributes as a catcher are probably my hands and my throwing arm and quick release," Warren said. "I'm definitely excited, the versatility and the value in that, I can play all around the field. I was told they're not pigeon-holing me into being a catcher, they said they want to try it out and see where I'm at."
In terms of playing catcher, Warren played just a handful of games behind the plate but did so well. Bischel recalled in 2019, the Chippewas took on Butler on March 2, 2019, in Osceola, Florida in the second game of a doubleheader.
In the day's first game against Hofstra, some Chippewas suffered injuries and Warren stepped in to catch Zach Kohn, who was drafted last year by the New York Yankees.
This year, Warren said he was told a Brewers scout saw him catch for junior right-handed pitcher Jordan Patty on Feb. 22 against Jacksonville State, a 1-0 win for the Chippewas.
"The best thing about a good catcher is you really don't notice him back there," Bischel said. "Kind of like a good umpire, they do their job and make the pitcher look good and that's what Zavier has done back there, you don't really notice him."
Despite spending what Bischel said was about 95 percent of his practice time at shortstop, Warren made extra time to practice catching to improve his versatility.
No one asked him to put in the extra work, he just did it.
"That's why he's going to do well at the pro level," Bischel said. "He's going to do it, he's going to do it with energy, he's going to do it hard and he's going to do it until he's successful."
Warren said he felt as though CMU was a great fit for him from the beginning. He was able to learn both on the field and in the classroom and he said he appreciated the staff and faculty.
By playing at CMU, Warren said he felt the chances of him going pro become less of a fleeting dream and more of a reality.
The 2019 season was one of the best the Chippewas had in the program's 114 seasons. CMU tied its highest win total in program history, won the Mid-American Conference regular-season and Tournament championships, advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995 and picked up a win against Miami (Florida) in the Starkville (Mississippi) Regional opener.
Warren said he has a lot of great memories to choose from, all of the friendships he formed with teammates, but one stuck out in his mind as he departs Mount Pleasant.
"Winning the MAC Tournament last year and going to the Regional," Warren said. "Not something a lot of players get to say they've done. I'm really grateful for that experience.
"That's one of the many things I will never forget about playing at CMU."