The 2013 season will be a new experience for righty Drew Storen. In his only full MLB season, 2011, Storen was the Nats’ full-time closer and earned 43 saves. While he was not the team’s top reliever in 2010, as a rookie, or in 2012, when he backed up Tyler Clippard after returning from an injury, Storen will enter the season as the team’s 8th inning for the first time in his career. He dominated out of the role last season, with a 2.37 ERA and a 0.989 WHIP in 30.1 IP after returning in July. While not getting saves will hurt his fantasy value, he remains an excellent reliever, as befits his draft slot (10th overall in 2009). He also appears to be past his nightmarish end to 2012, in which he allowed four runs to blow a save and turn a 7-5 advantage with two outs into a 9-7 St. Louis Cardinals lead. As much as it was covered during the offseason, Storen has moved on, as he showed with his composure after blowing a recent Spring Training save against the Mets. Our projections foresee continued excellence from him, with some regression to be conservative:
ZiPS: 56.1 IP, 52 K, 17 BB, 1.17 WHIP, 3.20 ERA
MLB.com: 58 IP, 50 K, 17 BB, 1.16 WHIP, 3.20 ERA
CBSSports: 65 IP, 59 K, 17 BB, 1.05 WHIP, 2.77 ERA
ESPN Fantasy: 64 IP, 61 K, 20 BB, 1.23 WHIP, 3.23 ERA
Averages: 61 IP, 56 K, 18 BB, 1.15 WHIP, 3.10 ERA
Without injury or playing time concerns, thoughts on Storen’s 2013 all follow a similar thread. Lots of strikeouts, few walks, and not many runs either. Even this estimate, which would make Storen a great reliever, might be an overestimate in terms of runs allowed. Despite a small sample size, Storen pitched at a maintainable level in 2012. His baBIP actually jumped 18 points from his incredibly successful 2011, when he had a 2.75 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP, meaning his performance was not founded on getting lucky with balls in play. He also had a FIP of 2.40, meaning his ERA was quite close to representing how well he actually pitched, based on fielding-independent outcomes like home runs, walks, and strikeouts. So while some may see a low ERA and assume it is unsustainable, the stats seem to say that Storen simply pitched well, and there is no reason to assume he won’t in 2013. Call me an optimist, but I expect Storen’s ERA to be at least a bit lower than what our projections expect. In fantasy he won’t have much value unless you are awarded points for holds or he pitches extremely well, so he will likely be a non-factor there, like every other middle reliever. On the Nationals, Storen will certainly continue to perform as an elite bullpen option, demonstrating the embarrassment of riches the Nationals have in being able to pitch him in the eighth.