Toronto Blue Jays 2016 season preview: Drew Storen


Blue Jays reliever Drew Storen will be looking to earn his way back into a closers role this Spring Training.

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Following a successful, yet unnerving, career with the Washington Nationals, Storen will be looking to re-establish himself as an elite closer in the majors. Storen has been unseated from the closer’s seat multiple times (often unjustly) for various other “big names” that have worked out to varying degrees. As a player who seems to thrive under routine, look for Storen to grab the closers role again this year.

2015 Production Recap

The 2015 season started like any other for Drew Storen. He began the year as the Washington Nationals closer, as he had for much of the career that started with the Nats in 2010. And, as usual, Storen was putting up stellar pitching numbers. In his first 36.1 innings of ’15 , Storen came away with 29 saves to go with a K/9 of 10.90 and an ERA of 1.73 (FIP of  1.98 in case your wondering).

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All that changed in late July. On July 28th the Washington Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon, a closer of even longer pedigree, from the Philadelphia Phillies to come in and do the exact same job Storen had been doing. From then on, Storen imploded. Whether it was simply him being upset over losing a job he had performed admirably in, or there was more behind it, everything changed from there on in.

From the time he lost his job at the back end of the bullpen to the time his season was cut short when he broke his hand punching a locker, Storens number were night and day. He would go on to pitch in 18.2 innings. He pitched those innings to the tune of an ERA of 6.75 to go with 3 blown saves.

2016 Role and Steamer Projections

While many are already of the belief that Storen will be taking over as the Blue Jays new closer, John Gibbons and the higher ups with the Blue Jays have stated that Spring Training will determine who gets that role.

Even if he doesn’t slot in at closer, Storen will have a high-leverage relief role with plenty of big situations to show his big game abilities.

Steamer projections seem to have him pegged for the latter, which may be reasonable with the season that Roberto Osuna just had (although his future potential as a starter could have a huge impact on what role he occupies this year). The projections have him pegged at pitching 65 innings with an ERA of 3.35 (that. while good, isn’t up to Storen’s career norms) to go with a K/9 and BB/9 of 9.15 and 2.77 respectively.

What could go wrong?

As has been visible in his career numbers, Drew Storen pitches better when he has a defined role. Knowing when he will be pitching has kept Storen in a routine that has allowed him to harness his deadly fastball/slider repertoire to absolute bullpen domination.

So if he comes into the 2016 season in a role other than the closers role, it is very possible his play could suffer. While I wouldn’t see it reaching the depths of the second half of last year, the steamer projections seem like the better bet. While not elite numbers, they are more than respectable in a bullpen that is already deep with Brett Cecil, Aaron Sanchez (if he doesn’t make the starting rotation) and Roberto Osuna.

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What could go right?

First things first, in what role Drew Storen will be pitching? If all goes well he could grab himself the closers role out of Spring Training and run with it.

Pitching the ninth inning, Storen could bring his game back to where it has been before. He could post huge save numbers (especially on such a great Blue Jays team) to go with huge strikeout totals. In the process he could put himself back into the upper-tier of closers, possibly even transitioning into the elite.

The bottom line

No matter what happens with Drew Storen’s role, it is very likely he remains the exceptional bullpen option he has always been, closer or not.

With strikeout numbers and a relatively l0w walk rate, not to mention a decent career WHIP of 1.13, Storen keeps himself out of trouble, and in turn keeps his manager and teammates happy by keeping them out of trouble.