Will Yoder: With Storen out, we may finally get a good gauge of his value

What is Drew Storen worth?

It’s a question that has been debated pretty heavily since the Nationals used their No. 10 overall pick to draft the talented reliever in 2009. In fact, it’s fair to say that Storen, the team’s 23-year-old stopper who recorded 43 saves last year, has been one of the more divisive characters on the team’s roster among pundits, bloggers, and fans since he made his major league debut in 2010.

The issue has been raised several times as the team’s stopper has been a major figure in trade rumors over the past two seasons. Some believe that his overall stuff, combined with the general volatility of the position, makes him expendable. Others argue that given his youth and his recent production, he could be the Nats’ version of Mariano Rivera.

Even leading into this spring, the question had been asked as Storen’s name was involved with rumors of a potential trade for a center fielder, and now it’s a question that we’re about to have an answer for. Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com reported yesterday afternoon that Storen will have his elbow examined by the famed Dr. James Andrews today. While it doesn’t seem likely that he will need to have Tommy John surgery, it is possible that he may miss up to three months if he has to undergo a procedure to remove loose bodies in his elbow.

This means the Nats bullpen will need to adjust, and Mike Rizzo’s collection of power arms will need to step up and get the job done without Storen. It also means that in his absence, he may finally really prove just how much he is worth to this ball club.

Washington, even without Storen, has one of the stronger bullpens in baseball. Brad Lidge, Tyler Clippard, Ryan Mattheus, Sean Burnett and Henry Rodriguez combine as a quintet of proven, hard-throwing options that manager Davey Johnson can use as he pleases. But will the Nats feel the void by not having that sixth shutdown option?

If they do feel it, it will likely only be because they can’t find someone who can mentally handle the pressure of pitching with a lead in the ninth inning. While some argue that a closer mentality is a fable thought up by nostalgic retired baseball analysts, there are clear-cut cases of players who at various points in their career just can’t handle the pressures of being a closer. We saw this first-hand with Joel Hannrahan in 2009, who blew five saves in 10 chances for Washington. Hannrahan’s stuff was nasty, but it was very clear that when he was given the ball with a chance to close out a game, he froze like a deer in headlights. Just two years later he was able to become one of the best closers in the game for Pittsburgh once he was mentally able to handle the position.

We saw last night that Henry Rodriguez, who was absolutely unhittable in his previous outing against the cubs, couldn’t prevent the Mets from scoring in the ninth inning for a 4-3 victory over the Nationals. If the team can’t get it done with Storen on the DL, it may supplant his presence on the Nats roster for years to come as they could finally realize that he is the key cog in what could be a championship pitching staff. If it’s clean sailing without Storen, then you may very well see him moved either at the trade deadline or at the end of the season.

It’s make or break time for Storen, and he wont even be on the mound to have a say in it.

Will Yoder blogs about the Nationals for The Nats Blog, and offers his viewpoints as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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