Drew Storen was chosen by the Washington Nationals not long after Stephen Strasburg in the 2009 draft. He signed almost immediately and got to work to prepare to take on the role of the Nats' closer. In the off-season, he goes back to college to pursue his degree in Mechanical Engineering at one of the best schools in the country on that subject, Stanford University.
During spring training this season, many wondered of Storen had worn himself too thin during the off-season. Baseball's grueling 162 game schedule doesn't leave much time for rest and relaxation, and neither did Storen's off-season of physics, calculus, and engineering in Palo Alto. He struggled during the spring and left some wondering if he would even make the Opening Day roster. Well, he did, and it turned out to be a pretty good thing.
Despite his struggles of late, Storen has been pretty automatic as young closers go, even though he hasn't had many opportunities to come in for a save lately. Bullpen pitchers will tell you that regular pitching is what keeps them consistent, but despite some extended stretches without an opportunity, Storen earned his 36th save on Tuesday night against the New York Mets. He is one of only two players younger than 25 in the National League with more than 30 saves. The other is Craig Kimbrel, the Atlanta Braves closer, who will be a finalist for the NL Rookie of the Year.
Storen is also fifth in Shutdowns among all relievers in baseball with 36, and isn't even in the top 30 in Meltdowns. If you're not familiar with these stats, you'll want to get familiar. They're fascinating to help evaluate a reliever's effectiveness. Learn more about these stats here and here. The four pitchers with more Shutdowns than Storen are Jonny Venters, John Axford, Craig Kimbrel, and the Nationals own Tyler Clippard. Not even Mariano Rivera has shutdown more games than Storen has this season.
Baseball personalities always say that good relievers are a dime a dozen. In some ways, they may be right. Sometimes teams luck out with running into the right player for the right role, but the Nationals drafted Storen for this role, and he looks pretty good at it so far. Here's hoping he has many more years in DC to realize his potential.
I think he's close. It's still a bit soon to tell but with that great fastball and devastating slider theres a real chance for him to find legendary status.
My impression was that he spent most of the Spring working on his fastball location and not throwing many sliders, so although he got hammered often, it was more that he was working on something and not that he was struggling too much.
Last year he hit the wall late in the season and his ERA jumped to the mid-3's. This year, he seemed to hit the wall again, but much later. I think his late season struggles are just the result of pitching a lot of innings as a young reliever. I expect even better results next year as his endurance continues to get better.
I was there when he got absolutely shalacked in spring training. I had never seen a single pitcher, aside from Oliver Perez, get hit that hard at any level of baseball ever. I wrote at the time that i would be shocked if he made the team.
Man, he has turned this around. He's been really great this season and I am impressed with the improvement.
That being said, I'm not sold on his overall value to the club. I agree he is proving to be one of the better relievers in baseball, but would i trade him for a position player? In a second.
@WillyYoder I wouldn't trade him without an alternative. Clippard/Storen works well. I'd have to see if Kimball is just as good (and healthy) or if Rodriguez can ever be consistent before I'd move him.
With that said, the Nats will have a crowded bullpen next year even without adding any free agent signings, so anything is possible. Still glad they didn't trade him for Span though. Span's injury isn't worth the risk.
I agree that the Nats should be optimistic about Storen. I think the difference between a long-term closer and a one-year wonder is the ability to make adjustments. Storen did it in Spring Training when he went to work on his fastball, and he's been using it more frequently and more effectively this season. Last night, he got a swinging K on a changeup, a pitch he almost never throws (Fangraphs says 0.9% of his pitches are change ups). If he can keep adjusting like this, he may be a big piece of the future.