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Storen could beat Strasburg to Majors05/12/2010 9:45 PM ET
By Brad Kallet / Special to MLB.com
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Stephen Strasburg isn't the only elite pitching prospect biding his time at Triple-A Syracuse. He may be the Nationals' ace of the future, but Drew Storen appears to be the closer-in-waiting.
And much like Strasburg, Storen is proving he is Major League-ready, just a year out of college.
"His stuff has been real good," Chiefs pitching coach Greg Booker said. "His secondary stuff has been real good and he's been doing a better job of getting his fastball down in the zone. He's a strike-thrower and his command is real good."
The 6-foot-2 right-hander was the 10th overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, going nine picks after Strasburg. He advanced rapidly in the Nationals' system last season, making stops at Class A Hagerstown and Class A Advanced Potomac before ending the summer with Double-A Harrisburg.
The Stanford product began this year back in Harrisburg but was quickly promoted to Syracuse. He doesn't come with the hype that Strasburg does -- few do -- but his numbers have been nearly as impressive, if not more so.
Storen has excelled in every Minor League city in which he's pitched. Over 37 innings last season, he posted a 1.95 ERA and 11 saves. Most impressively, Storen struck out 49 batters and issued only eight walks. Opponents hit just .162 against him.
Facing tougher competition this season, Storen hasn't missed a beat. Before being promoted to Triple-A, he allowed just one run and struck out 11 over 9 1/3 innings. With Syracuse, he has given up one run over 6 2/3 frames.
Following Strasburg in Wednesday's game against Norfolk, Storen worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
The highly touted reliever has built upon last season's trend of showing great command -- he's fanned 15 and walked only three in 14 1/3 innings.
It is this stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio that makes Storen so effective out of the bullpen.
"Pitching to contact is just the attitude I try to take from college, especially throwing in relief late in games," Storen said. "It's huge that you don't put free baserunners on the basepaths. I try not to think about it too much, but it's something I take pride in -- not necessarily striking a bunch of guys out but not walking guys."
Though Storen has handled Minor League hitters with ease, Chiefs manager Trent Jewett believes he still has some work to do before he can excel at the next level.
"It takes more than stuff to get hitters out in the big leagues," Jewett noted. "I think one thing he has to do is understand his fastball, understand how to get men out."
Whether or not there's room for improvement, Storen appears to be on the fast track to the Majors, as is the trend for highly drafted closers. If he continues to pitch like he has over the past year, he could be a vital member of the Nationals bullpen by the summer.
Jewett wouldn't address when Storen will make his Major League debut, though he admittedly would love to have his arm as long as possible.
"His stuff is unquestionable," Jewett said. "His makeup is excellent. His off-speed stuff is well above average, especially for a kid of his limited experience. He's certainly on the right track."