Kyle Drabek certainly has the pedigree. His father Doug is a former Cy Young Award Winner. In speaking of his father, Kyle said:
“It was like having a pitching coach who lives with you … He taught me so much, not only about the physical part of the game but the mental part too.”
Some teacher. Drabek was the 18th pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2006 draft. He signed for $1.55 million, apparently more money than the young Drabek knew how to handle. He blew out his elbow in 2007 while pitching for the Lakewood Blue Claws of the Sally League and spent most of the 2008 season on the shelf. But, that wasn’t the end of Drabek’s problems. He also was arrested twice for public intoxication and banged his car into a tree. Some scouts have described him as tempermental and having a “blue chip on his shoulder.”
He used his time off to put together his pitching repertoire and learn to make better personal decisions. In 2009, he moved from High-A Clearwater to Double-A Reading where he posted a 8-2 mark with a 3.64 ERA and also earning a spot in the Futures Game. Drabek had become a coveted property.
“I knew I was going to have to change things if I wanted to get there,” said Drabek.
The Phillies balked at giving him up at the 2009 trade deadline, but pulled the trigger in December 2009 in the trade that acquired Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays. Drabek pitched at Double-A New Hampshire in 2010 where he was 14-9, 2.94 and a 1.20 WHIP and was named Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. In a September call-up, he started 3 games for Toronto, lost all 3, and put up a 4.76 ERA.
Kyle Drabek’s best pitch is overwhelmingly a curve said to be one of the best in the business. He mixes in a 2-seamer and a 4-seamer and the 2-seamer is able to generate a lot of infield grounders. His fastball tops out at 96, but he’s usually more accurrate in the low 90′s. One of Drabek’s weaknesses has been an inability to get lefties out. He worked on that extensively last year and with the aid of an improved cutter, Drabek held left-handed hitters to a .227 batting average. Scouting grades on the typical 20-80 major league scale put his curveball at 70 and his fastball at 65. Drabek still needs work on his control which is at the 50 mark.
The rap against Drabek is going to be that he has never pitched at the Triple-A level. Nevertheless, the Blue Jays obviously think a lot of him to make him the prime acquisition in the Roy Halladay trade. He looks to start the season as Toronto’s # 4 starter, but will have to win out over Jesse Litsch and Marc Rzepczynski. Litsch, 25, has only started 11 games over the past two years as result of Tommy John surgery, but he posted a 13-9, 3.58 year in 2008. Rzepczynski, a southpaw, spent last year in Toronto and at Triple-A; he’s a viable candidate, but has some control issues (4.3 BB/9). The team may look to start Drabek at Triple-A to keep his innings and service time down. Keep a close eye on this during spring training.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: Kyle Drabek — Assuming Drabek starts the year in Toronto, anticipate a 10 win season for the young Drabek and an ERA around the 4.00 mark. If your league uses strikeouts, Drabek is never going to be a big K guy; his strikeout/innings ratio was just .81 at Double-A last year. That being said, when you get traded for the best pitcher in baseball, you have to think the guy is something special. If you play in a keeper league, Drabek, 23, is a great guy to stash on your roster for many years to come.