New Blue Jays reliever Drew Storen will slot into an eighth inning role or later, and here’s what you need to know about the former Nationals closer
It’s fascinating to see the impact that one move can have on the puzzle of a Major League roster. Looking at the bullpen alone, Drew Storen’s arrival allows the organization to be more aggressive with Aaron Sanchez while leaving them with two closing-calibre arms and one of baseball’s most dominant lefties in Brett Cecil. It’s the big-name addition we’ve been waiting for, and here’s what you need to know about the man who does not own a Jonathan Papelbon jersey:
Name: Drew Patrick Storen
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 195
Age: 28 Throws: R
Contract: Final arbitration year ($8.8 million projected)
Draft: 10th Overall (2009), Stanford University
On the Mound
Storen has been a prominent relief name since breaking in with the Nationals as a 22-year old in 2010, and outside of his difficulties in 2013, his first six years in the league have been relatively consistent for the position. All of this despite some curious usage by the Nationals over his career, culminating in the downright bizarre Papelbon addition to the closer’s role last year.
As a 23-year old in his second pro season, Storen broke out with a high-usage year (75.1 IP) posting 43 saves and a 2.75 ERA. Between that season and 2015, however, Storen would slide into a setup role for Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano. For his career, he owns 95 Major League saves and has produced a 0.7 WAR or higher in five of his six seasons.
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The 2015 season saw Storen experience a significant spike in his strikeout numbers, posting an 11.0 K/9 that was over 2.0 K/9 above his previous career high. His 3.44 ERA, 2.79 FIP and 1.109 WHIP represent a fairly reasonable expectation for what can be expected in 2016. His Steamer projection on FanGraphs predicts a 3.37 ERA over 65.0 innings, but that will need to be adjusted to his new environment.
Much of his success last year was due to a dominant slider, one that Storen throws approximately one-third of the time. Owen Watson at FanGraphs looked at this in June, noting that the horizontal movement on Storen’s slider had produced a much tighter flight plane that was potentially benefitting from the deception of looking like a fastball out of the hand.
The numbers back it up, too, as opposing hitters managed to hit just .161 against Storen’s slider with a .222 slugging percentage and 0.062 ISO. The 5.0 PITCHf/x rating of his slider was the strongest he’s earned since that 43-save season, and with his fastball remaining a plus pitch, there’s a lot to love. His velocity has yet to show any cause for worry, either, as his average fastball of 94.1 MPH aligns with his past three seasons comfortably.
With this, Storen has developed into a dominant arm against right-handed hitting, something that was highlighted in 2015. Righty bats managed just a .146 average and .482 OPS against him, numbers similar to Aaron Sanchez’s success against the same hand. Should Roberto Osuna remain in the closer’s role, this provides manager John Gibbons with perfect splits chemistry between Storen and Cecil (with Loup as a LOOGY bounce-back candidate).
Above all else, Toronto is adding Storen at the right time in his career. His salary expectations from the final year of arbitration kept his open market value within reach, but at 28 years old, he remains firmly in his prime.
Looking through dozens (and dozens) of bullpen arms this offseason, one of the more common traits I’ll notice is a drop in velocity and effectiveness around the age 30-32 seasons. In fact, I’m more surprised if I don’t see that. Especially with power arms, and while Storen has taken on a heavy workload in his still-young career, the Blue Jays should absolutely be getting a full season of his pre-decline arm.
Off the Field & Extras
He should also have little trouble fitting in with the Blue Jays tight-knit clubhouse, another welcome change for Storen from his Nationals days. A product design major at Stanford, Storen drafted a design for these elevated bullpen seats in the Washington bullpen. He also added a payphone cover to the bullpen phone.
Since learning of the trade, Storen has also flashed his P.R. skills, quickly changing his Twitter bio to read “Pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and apparently now a Drake fan”.
Here’s a look at Storen’s pitching mechanics in great detail, courtesy of Pitchers Power Drive:
Here we’ve got a day that Storen spent with Amy K. Nelson of SBNation where they shine some light on the man off the field. Everything from hot yoga to Batman.
And for those of you wondering, his bullpen walk-out music in 2015 was ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ by Johnny Cash. Which is nothing if not intimidating.