It is becoming apparent that the Washington Nationals have their closer of the future, and he's ready to make an impact at the big league level. Drew Storen was recalled from AAA Harrisburg on May 16 and made his Major League debut the next day, tossing two thirds of an inning in relief in which he struck out Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday.
The 22 year old right-hander stands in at six foot, two inches and weighs in at 180. Storen possesses a strong slider and his fastball can reach the mid to upper 90s. Formerly a starter, Storen has the makeup of a closer, and that is likely how the Nationals will groom him.
Storen was selected tenth overall last year out of Stanford University. He needed only a total of 41 minor league appearances over two seasons to prove that he could be thrust into the Nationals bullpen in a setup, and potentially closer role.
He has essentially proceeded from one minor league level to the next and upped his game at each stop. In 2010, he started things off at AA and pitched 9.1 innings in seven games, posting a 0.96 ERA with four saves, 11 K's and an excellent 0.64 WHIP. He moved up to AAA after this stint, and there he pitched 7.1 innings in six games. He recorded a 1.23 ERA striking out four.
Looking at his Minor League totals over the past two years yields the more impressive and consistent numbers. His overall line through 41 games and 53..2 innings is as follows: a 2-1 record with a 1.68 ERA, 15 saves, just 11 walks to 64 strikeouts, and a 0.82 WHIP.
Storen's route to becoming the Nationals closer is a bit clogged by righties Tyler Clippard, and current closer Matt Capps who has really upped his production from 2009. He may have a couple of years of relief work in him before he acquires the title of closer.
That formula has worked in the past; take Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez, for example. Bear in mind, it is early and this comparison could seem drastic, but just take this into account. Both K-Rod and Storen have similar body types, give or take an inch or a few pounds, and they both know how to get that little bit extra on their fastballs.
Rodriguez was brought up to the Angels at age 20 in 2002 and spent three seasons as a setup man, and his highest recorded ERA 3.03, and his weakest WHIP was 1.00. Since then, K-Rod has saved 235 games and has not really missed a beat in his Major League career.
Comparing Storen to K-Rod might seem a bit hasty, but if Washington manages its young pitcher the same way Anaheim did back in the day, similar results could become of the situation. These are two organizations who at each point in time, have struggled to break out of their shell. Look at Anaheim?s overall output during that time period. They finished under .500 in 2001 and 2003. Rodriguez starting closing in 2004, and a chain reaction of playoff appearances emerged. The Angels won the division four out of the next five years with him as their closer.
This is already a relatively youthful Nationals team heading in the right direction, and Storen can be a big piece to their future playoff puzzle. With Stephen Strasburg?s arrival on the horizon, and the potential for the organization to land Bryce Harper in the draft, the team may have a future as a contender.
The buzz about starting pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg might be overshadowing Storen, but Storen has reached the highest level first and can have an immediate impact in a middle relief role. I guarantee that a few years down the road, he?ll mean quite a bit more to the organization than that. Be very wary of Drew Storen.