May 2, 2011

Drew Storen > Aaron Crow

Erstwhile never-quite-a-Nat Aaron Crow was just named Kansas City's pitcher of the month for April. The lefty reliever worked 12 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out 11 and stranding all 10 runners he inherited. That's nice work for a setup man, no doubt, but Crow was supposed to be a starter, a dominant lefty that the Nats could pair with Jordan Zimmermann atop the rotation.

Of course, as we all know, it didn't work out that way. Drafted by the Nats in the first round in 2008, Crow balked at the Nats contract offer and spent a year pitching for the independent Fort Worth Cats before re-entering the draft and signing with Kansas City. Harsh words were leveled at the front office and ownership in the immediate aftermath, and the consensus was that Crow's flight was a serious failure, to be mitigated only if the Nats' compensation pick, reliever Drew Storen, ended up being better than Crow.

On the face of it, those were long odds. Aaron Crow was a starter, Storen a relief pitcher. Even the best relievers rarely provide anything approaching the value of an average starting pitcher. Here's the thing though, once in the minor leagues Crow wasn't an average starting pitcher; he was terrible. ERA over 5 in hi-A ball terrible. No 3rd pitch terrible. Just plain terrible.

Storen, meanwhile, blew through the minors, literally and figuratively, balancing his pitching responsibilities with duty as Stephen Strasburg's unofficial spokesman. He made his MLB debut on May 17, 2010 and went on to post an ERA+ of 113 over 55 innings, including 5 saves. Storen's matched that save total already in 2011, with an ERA+ of 660 (over 15 innings).

By all rights there is a lot of baseball ahead of both these young men, but here are their career lines to date:

None of this excuses the process that led to the botched 2008 draft, but knowing what we know now, it's hard to think the Nationals didn't come out on top in spite of themselves. A little over a month from now, Drew Storen will have two years of professional baseball experience, Aaron Crow almost three. By the numbers you'd have to take Storen every time, wouldn't you?