Before he was selected with the Washington Nationals' second 1st Round pick of 2009, which the team received as compensation for having been unable to sign their '08 1st Round pick RHP Aaron Crow, Drew Storen told Baseball Analysts' writer Jeremy Greenhouse, as quoted in an article entitled, "2009 Draft Day Spotlight: Drew Storen", that while he knew remaining a reliever might provide a quicker route to the majors, "...most of the teams I've talked to have said they might want me to be a starter." Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin cited Mr. Greenhouse's article in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "And With the 10th Overall Pick, the Nationals Select...", which announced that the Stanford Cardinal closer was taken 10th overall by the Nats, and the first question Mr. Sheinin had for DC GM Mike Rizzo following the draft was what Mr. Rizzo had planned for the then-21-year-old right-hander who'd just completed his sophomore year at Stanford as a closer with a (7-1) record, 3.80 ERA, 7 saves, 8 walks (1.69 BB/9) allowed and 66 K's (13.92 K/9) collected in 28 games and 42.2 IP over which he'd held opponents to a .210 AVG, "...including a paltry .182 mark against right-handed hitters (16-for-88)," which his Stanford Player Bio noted.
The Post's Mr. Sheinin, presumably, asked the Nats' General Manager directly, "Is Storen a starter or reliever?" in a post draft press conference transcribed by Mr. Sheinin for a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Rizzo On Strasburg, Storen... and Crow", and Mr. Rizzo's response was unequivocal:
"'He has the repetoire to be a starter, but we're going to keep him in the bullpen role. That's where he's most comfortable, and his makeup and character led us to that decision. He wants the challenge of having the ball in the ninth inning. .... He's a much quicker prospect to the majors as a closer prospect.'"
Storen signed almost immediately, agreeing to a deal the day after he was drafted, which included a $1.6 million dollar bonus and an assignment to the Class-A Hagerstown Suns, and nine days after he was selected, the right-hander threw 12 pitches in a relief appearance, including a 96 mph fastball on the second pitch, which, "...was deposited over the center-field wall by [Lakewood] BlueClaws catcher Travis D'Arnaud," according to MLB.com's Lisa Winston, who covered Storen's minor league debut in an article entitled, "Storen first of 2009 class to taste pros".
The rest of Storen's time at Class-A Hagerstown, all 11 games before he jumped to Class-A Potomac, saw the right-hander pitch 14.2 innings over which he recorded 26 K's (16.0 K/9) without allowing a walk (uh, 0.0 BB/9), and with the P-Nats, Storen recorded his first professional "W" and walked just 2 (1.8 BB/9) while recording 11 K's (9.9 K/9) and allowing just 2 ER on 7 hits in 7 games and 10.0 IP before he jumped to Double-A Harrisburg and finished his first pro season with 12.1 scoreless IP over which he gave up just 3 hits and 6 walks (4.4 BB/9) while recording 12 K's (8.8 K/9).
In the Arizona Fall League, it was more dominance, as both Storen and '09 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg, (with whom Storen's inextricably linked), impressed in their first tests against elite competition with the starter, Strasburg, going (4-1) in 5 starts and 14.0 IP over which he allowed 15 hits and 10 runs, 9 earned while giving up 7 walks (4.5 BB/9) and striking out 23 (14.79 K/9), while Storen went (2-0) with 4 saves in 12 games and 13.2 IP over which he posted a 0.66 ERA and gave up 16 hits, 3 runs, just 1 earned, while walking 3 (1.98 BB/9) and striking out 13 (8.56 K/9).
Both Storen and Strasburg were in Spring Training with the Nats this year, and not-surprisingly, both were sent to the minors to start the season, for many reasons, most of which (not all c'mon, money and arbitration eligibility matter) had to do with their continued development. Storen gave up 5 hits and 3 ER with 3 walks and 7 K's in 6.0 IP against mostly major league talent this Spring, then went down to Double-AA Harrisburg, where he earned 4 saves in 7 games and 9.0 IP in which he gave up 1 ER and 1 walk (1.0 BB/9) while collecting 11 K's (10.6 K/9) which yesterday earned the 22-year-old right-hander a promotion to Triple-A Syracuse, where he'll be tonight when the Chiefs take on the Toledo Mud Hens. (Listen Here starting @ 7:00 pm EST).
From the start, Storen's rise through the system has reminded me of the rise of the first Flat-Brimmed Closer, Chad Cordero, the Montreal Expos' '03 1st Round pick, taken 20th overall out of Cal State Fullerton, who pitched in just 19 games and 26.1 innings in the minors before making his MLB debut on August 30, 2003, just a little over 2 months after he'd signed on with the Expos on June 27th of that year. Given a chance to ask the DC GM Mike Rizzo last summer whether or not we'd see Drew Storen rise through the system like Cordero had, Mr. Rizzo's responded:
"Can I consider him a quicker-to-the big leagues, you know, college relief pitcher...Cordero's situation was ultra-ultra-quick to the big leagues, I don't see him pitching in the big league this season like Cordero did..."
But there's little doubt that Storen will make his MLB debut soon, as soon as June according to most speculation. Over 2 seasons, Storen's made 35 appearances, and pitched 46.1 innings in the Nationals' system. His rise through the ranks might not be "ultra-ultra-quick", but it's faster than most, and according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson, who quoted Storen in an article yesterday entitled, "Storen continues fast track to Majors", so far it's gone just as Storen's planned:
"'Signing early was crucial,' Storen said. 'I wanted to get going and start playing. The experience that I had last year helped me out this year. I wanted to put myself in a situation where I could move quickly this year.'"
How long will the Nationals be able to hold him back?