Mickey Storey had a horrible senior season of college last year, posting an ERA above seven.
Given that he was a senior with poor performance, Storey wasn't heralded at all, and the Oakland A's got him toward the end of the 2008 draft in the 31st round.
Many 31st round picks don't ever even sign or play pro ball. Of the ones that do, few ever become notable players.
The medium-sized righthander pitched decently in rookie ball after signing last season, posting a 3.27 ERA with a 23/6 K/BB ratio in 22 innings. Still, as a 22-year-old, he was expected to dominate the younger hitters, and his merely above-average performance was the bare minimum for him to stay with the Oakland organization.
Storey didn't even make a full-season roster to open 2009 because of this, but after some injuries hit the roster at Low-A Kane County, he got sent in as a replacement.
Seemingly instantly, Storey became an unhittable closer. He picked up nine saves in 13 appearances, posting a 0.52 ERA and sparkling 23/1 K/BB ratio in 17 1/3 innings.
Noting Storey's success, the A's quickly jumped him to the High-A Stockton team. If he was to be any sort of prospect, he needed to move quickly, since he was already 23.
The California League is death to pitchers, but Storey was unfazed by it, notching seven more saves in 16 appearances. He posted a 2.16 ERA and 24/3 K/BB ratio in 16 2/3 innings.
This week, the A's continued to aggressively push the Florida Atlantic alum, having him skip Double-A and go to Triple-A Sacramento.
The move was initially though to be temporary, but then Storey struck out the first three batters he faced at the new level. The A's didn't send him down as expected, and he's since had another appearance. He's faced nine batters over two appearances, retired all of them, and struck out four.
Storey has jumped from a 31st-round draft pick to dominant Triple-A reliever in 13 months. He's jumped from extended spring training to dominant Triple-A reliever in just three months.
For the season, he has pitched 37 innings, allowed nine runs (five earned), and put up a whopping 51/4 K/BB ratio. He's only allowed two homers, both in the high-offense Cal League.
So what is the disconnect here? Why was Storey rated so low, yet performed so well?
Well, he was a dominant pitcher his first two years of college, and then had injury issued that messed him up the last two seasons.
Storey, at 6'1" 185, isn't a physically imposing pitcher, and he doesn't have premium velocity, sitting in the 87-92 mph range with his fastball.
Storey's size, pedestrian velocity, injury history, and lack of success post-sophomore year combined to really drop his draft stock.
However, watching him pitch, it's easy to see why Storey has so much success. He has pinpoint control of his fastball, which has a lot of run into righties and away from lefties. He consistently spots the pitch on the corners for strike one.
His changeup is less than stellar, but like the fastball, he spots it consistently, and can throw it down and away to lefties for strikes.
The key to Storey's success is a low-70's curveball that breaks hard and late. Since he's consistently ahead in the count with the early-count fastballs and changeups, Storey can bury the curveball down and away out of the strike zone to finish hitters off.
He throws the pitch to both lefties and righties, and they have difficulty laying off the pitch or making contact with it. Storey also can throw the curve in the strike zone if he needs to, but so many batters chase it that he rarely needs to get it over.
With incredible numbers, pinpoint command, and a major league out pitch, this low draft pick could be a shutdown reliever for many years.