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So Far We Are: Meet Your New Jays, Kyle Drabek

The lone pitcher acquired in the Roy Halladay trade bonanza was Kyle Drabek, and he seems to have a keen sense of that already.  Drabek, son of major league pitcher and former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek, was born on December 8, 1987 in Victoria, Texas. He grew up and attended high school in Texas as well, and has admitted he's not so much a disciple of Halladay as he is of fellow Texan fireballer Josh Beckett.   

Drabek was drafted out of high school by the Philadelphia Phillies in the first round of the 2006 amateur player draft, the 18th overall pick in that draft.  I think it's fair to say that Kyle would have gone much higher in the draft had there not been concerns about his "makeup" - specifically, events including a single-car collision in which Drabek was involved, a public intoxication charge that was later dropped, and more-than-occasional flare-ups of a fiery temper on and off the field.  I'm not one to make excuses, but none of this sounds all that terrible for a 17-year old kid, particularly if such incidents are in the past, which it appears as though they are - I can't recall any such stories in the past few years - indeed, all the stories are about how far Drabek has come, on and off the mound.   

Drabek was drafted for his lively fastball and his big curveball, two pitches which put him squarely in the "power pitcher" category.  He didn't pitch for very long in the minors, though, before blowing out his elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery.  The Phillies were concerned about how Drabek might respond and hooked him up with a career minor leaguer, Mike Zagurski, as a roomate, and the two developed a good friendship.  Maybe it worked, or maybe their concerns were misplaced, because Drabek has really come along way since that surgery - altering his mechanics and working on his change-up, a crucial third pitch that Drabek admits still needs more work.  Having a major-league quality change will be crucial to making Drabek's fastball as effective as it can be.

 Drabek only made 8 starts in 2008, but did well in his first taste of A ball.  2009, though, was a very big year for Kyle.  He pitched at advanced A and AA, making 15 starts at AA, showing why he was so well regarded coming out of the draft, and not seeming to show any lingering effects from his ligament replacement.  Overall, Drabek put up a 3.19 ERA over 158 innings, actually a bit of an alarming increase from 2008 - but nice that his arm strength is at that level.  He struck out 150 and walked 50 over that span, putting up very impressive K and walk rates - the walk rate is especially impressive for a young power pitcher.  Drabek's MO on the mound is pretty simple - attack the zone with a first-pitch strike, typically with his fastball.  When he's ahead of the hitter, he uses the curve to put them away.

It's actually quite impressive that Drabek, who is only 22, has progressed so far and so well in the minors even though he lost almost an entire season to TJ surgery.  You don't do that unless you are both very talented and very dedicated. And if he can control his emotions on the mound, his power pitcher arsenal and fiery competitiveness, which the Jays love, scream front of the rotation.  

Looking ahead, Drabek will begin the season in AA, and treat the fine people of the Granite State to his pitching.  I don't think it's totally impossible that he could pitch in the majors this season, but it's much more likely to be next season.  He stil needs work on his changeup and there's no reason to rush him.  The young righty seems to have a bright career ahead of him and, while of course I'm sad to see Doc go, I'm glad it will be with the Blue Jays.

Today's title from a great song by the French Kicks.