Kyle Drabek Looks Strong Versus Yankees

With Dustin McGowan on the mend (plantar fasciitis in the right foot) even more eyes were on the Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Kyle Drabek tonight.  Not only are people within the Jays organization still hoping he can live up to his potential but maybe he can earn an outright spot in the rotation immediately.  Kyle Drabek helped his case with a strong spring training effort versus the New York Yankees and basically their full starting lineup.

Kyle Drabek faced 20 batters and gave the Jays 5 shutout innings, allowing 5 hits, walking 2 and striking out 5 to improve his spring ERA to 3.14.  Not only did he strike out a batter an inning but he also kept the ball on the ground inducing 5 ground ball outs (and only 2 flyouts).  The talented youngster would be a major boon to the questionable back end of the rotation if he were able to put it all together on a consistent basis.

Last season was rough for Drabek – 78.2 IPs, 87 hits, 55 BB, 51 K’s, 6.06 ERA, 5.52 FIP, 1.81 WHIP.  But don’t forget one Roy Halladay set a record for the worst ERA (10.64) for any starting pitcher with more than 60 IPs and he turned out pretty good.  Not to say that Kyle Drabek is remotely close to the talent level of a Roy Halladay but it goes to show failure can quickly turn to success with the right combination of talent, effort and a little good fortune. 

With that I thought we would revisit Kyle Drabek’s highly anticipated (and highly successful) MLB debut last year on April 2nd, 2011 versus the Minnesota Twins.  The big right hander is talented and has been highly touted by scouts since being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies. 

Let’s take a look at what I wrote one year ago along with some Pitch F/X data from his stellar outing versus the Twins:

The Minnesota Twins quite frankly looked lost against the relatively unknown major league commodity Kyle Drabek and Drabek took advantage carving up the Twins with a wide assortment of two and four seam fastballs and an effective cut fastball.  The cut fastball was especially effective on the outside corner of the plate against left-handed batters as Drabek caught a few Twins looking for strike three – though it appeared the strike zone at times was slightly favouring the pitcher. 

The Twins took feeble hacks most of the game during Drabek’s seven strong innings and his final line was pretty impressive – 7 IPs, 1 hit, 1 earned, 3 walks and 7 strikeouts.  It took him 101 pitches to get through seven innings and while his defense picked him up at times he was clearly in total command for most of the outing.

The seven strikeouts are extremely encouraging and although the league will adjust to Drabek as they learn his nuances a bit better an even better sign was the amount of worm burners he was inducing – 11 ground outs to only one fly out.  A look at the pitch f/x data will give us a more complete picture and I was especially curious to see how the cutter would look in terms of movement, velocity and placement. 


According to Brooks Baseball Drabek threw 14 cutters (9 for strikes, only 1 swinging) and the average horizontal break was 1.41 inches with an average speed of 90 MPH.  For comparison the wicked cutter of Mariano Rivera can move 2.5+ inches away from a righty, but that isn’t fair to any pitcher as he has made a living on one pitch and has obviously mastered it.

Here is another chart plotting horizontal movement with speed and pitch type.


Drabek changed speeds well, threw a variety of different fastballs to each side of the plate and flashed a pretty solid curveball at times as well.  Have a look at the vertical movement and horizontal movement of each pitch as well.


We have to temper our excitement and expectations given his age, lack of experience and in my mind still a suspect minor league track record but to not come away totally impressed with Kyle Drabek’s season debut is extremely imprudent.  Drabek’s next start should come Friday night (April 8th, 2011) against the L.A. Angels, I am sure a lot of eyes will be on that game to see just how he will follow up his stellar debut.


After a miserable 2011 campaign the pressure is definitely on Kyle Drabek to show the Jays he can still be a top of the rotation type of starter.  Given the number of high quality, high ceiling starting pitching prospects coming through the revamped system Drabek could be in danger of becoming a forgotten man if he doesn’t right a ship that went well astray last season.

Tonight’s five shutout innings against an AL East division rival was a good start.


7 Responses to “Kyle Drabek Looks Strong Versus Yankees”

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  2. 2 AL Eastbound & Down (@ALEastbound) March 31, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    190 IPs from Drabek would be a dream, probably unrealistic but I understand what you are saying. In a perfect world, that would be a huge boon for the team.

    I am not sold on him, yet, but am hopeful I am proven wrong!

  3. 3 AL Eastbound & Down (@ALEastbound) March 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    Agreed, while I am quietly optimistic and hopeful for a possible push for a playoff spot. But this team as assembled will need everything to go right for that to happen. Stranger things have happened.

    If Drabek is a major contributor this season I think it is safe to say our season is going to go a lot better than planned.

    Deck McGuire can be an innings eater, and probably nothing more but another team might value him higher (like Nestor Molina) and give us a useable piece for the next 1-2 seasons if we are close to contention. He wouldn’t be a major loss considering our deep system.

    Hate to say it but there are a ton of question marks, too many to overcome likely this season.

    But this season will also be a year of growth in terms of growth at the MLB and minor league levels.

    I’m not normally a “sign this free agent” guy but if Votto is available via trade or free agency, that would be a monster addition.

  4. 4 Keith March 28, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Completely agree. Too many people have written Drabek off. Imagine a potential rotation of Romero, Morrow, Alvarez, Drabek and McGowan. With Hutchison, Jenkins and McGuire waiting in the wings. I can see a McGuire being trade fodder given the wave behind him.
    I’m excited that we could be on the verge of something big. If only we could dump Lind and get a real first baseman.
    I don’t think 2012 is the year, but an amazing confluence of factors is coming together to have this city go crazy over baseball again. Both the Make beleafs and Raps are horrible. There has been a huge amount of interest in the Jays all off season (Darvish, fielder etc.). If this team can come out of the shoot strong, I’m convinced we will see strong crowds at the gates. Remember this was the team that lead the Majors in attendance for a few years. The question is will AA be able to part with the right pieces to go get the missing parts? And with the limits in the draft and international signings, will the Jays be able to trade some of this depth? And will these changes increase the price of MLB trades?
    My feeling is no. I think that the team we are putting out on opening day ( plus injury call ups) is the one which will be responsible to bring it home. This is not a bad thing. There are just too many uncertainties this year: Lind, Rasmus, Morrow, Alvarez, Drabek, Thames/ Snider, McGowan, EE & Johnson are not certain for “x” wins or Hr/ Obp. Even Lawrie has a degree of questions surrounding him (injury prone/ first full season at just 22).

    • 5 AL Eastbound & Down (@ALEastbound) March 28, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      and while I am hopeful for Kyle Drabek I have NEVER been as high on him as most of the talent evaluators/scouts.

      I think his minor league numbers have been average at best (strikeouts especially) and his ceiling is a quality #3 type starter.

      Saying that, the Jays would DEFINITELY take that…

      • 6 Keith March 31, 2012 at 7:17 am

        I disagee with a ceiling of #3. I think his ceiling is a bit higher (2) simply because he has a plus breaking ball and can sit in the mid 90s with his fastball. He also has a good changeup. His issue has always been mechanics and willingness to make changes that the coaching staff have suggested. I wonder how much of this is true about Snider up until this year? I wonder if guys like Snider and Drabek who come up with success at an early age, wind up not listening and not being willing to implement changes to make them better?
        If the Jays get:
        190- 200 innings out of Drabek this year
        200+ out of Morrow and Romero
        175 from Alvarez
        130 out of McGowan and 100 out of Hutchison/ Jenkins
        this will be a great year!

  1. 1 Brett Cecil Demotion Highlites Blue Jays Questionable Starting Rotation « AL Eastbound & Down Trackback on April 3, 2012 at 6:46 pm

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