Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post today pointed out that with his recent struggles in Spring Training, and the relative overall strength of the Nationals Bullpen, Drew Storen may very well find himself not making the big league club out of Spring Training:
There’s five of seven relief spots. Two remain for Storen, Broderick and Gaudin. Keeping both Broderick, 24, and Gaudin, 27, would make for an awkward bullpen composition – both are long-relief or back-of-the-rotation types. But Broderick, as a Rule 5 pick, would have to stay on the 25-man roster all season in order for the Nationals to keep him. And Gaudin would have to pass through waivers if the Nationals tried to send him to the minors, something one scout said will not happen.
With them both pitching so well this spring, the Nationals will have a tough decision to make. The surest way to hold on to all their talent would be send one of their relievers with options – Storen or Slaten – to Class AAA Syracuse to start the season.
It has long been whispered around Nats Town that Storen may not be the pitcher some have made him out to be, and that he may not actually have the stuff to be an elite closer in the MLB. However, no one ever felt that he would be this bad. Storen has been absolutely tattooed this spring, and from what I saw today at the game, he seemed to be more than a little flustered by his fleeting ability to make outs at a top level. In 6.1 innings pitched this spring he has been lit up for 14 hits, two homers and nine earned runs.
In one inning of work today, Storen got knocked around for three runs and four hits which included two absolute bombs and a triple off the centerfield monster at Space Coast stadium which likely would have been gone at Nats Park. From sitting behind the plate, his fastball looked like it had his normal velocity however it was straight as an arrow and was getting smacked by mediocre Cardinals hitters.
While there have been naysayers of Storen as a true MLB closer, few have doubted his ability to get Major League batters out. But given his recnet inability to produce anywhere close to an MLB level, much less an MLB closer level, can the Nats really afford to add him to the MLB roster out of camp?
Confidence is a funky thing. When you have it, it can be your greatest tool, especially for closers who are often emotion driven hurlers. However, when you don’t have confidence, it shows and can lead to bad outings, meltdowns, and can even end careers.
We have to look no further than the Nationals bench to see the worst case scenario of a great pitcher who lost confidence. Rick Ankiel, now competing for the Nats centerfield job, was once one of the top pitching prospects in baseball before an epic pitching meltdown found him unable to even throw a strike. So far, Storen has not been nearly that bad, but if Washington keeps him in the limelight under the pressure of the Major Leagues they may be setting him up to fail.
Sending him to Syracuse, while shocking, may be the most logical move for the Nats who need to think about both Storen and the club’s future. A couple of lockdown outings for the Chiefs could do wonders for the righty in regaining the form that made him once a promising closer…to some.