Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Drabek down, Stewart up

Is it okay if I officially have doubts about Kyle Drabek now?

I haven't had much to say about Drabek's start to the season. Sure, he's been God-awful. But who cares? This is a growth year so let him grow, I thought. Can't find the strikezone? It's the same size in Vegas. Dominating quad-A bats? Couldn't it instill as much doubt as struggling at the big league level? As far as this move goes, I don't have too much of an opinion either way. Let him stay up and struggle wouldn't bother me just as sending him down does little to aggravate me.

Let me rewind for a second. I used the word "dominating" in reference to Kyle Drabek which isn't really fair. A name used — with more and more regularity — as a comp for Drabek is Clay Buchholz. And that terrifies me.

The Big Sell Job after the Halladay was with Drabek as a near top of the rotation guy. Maybe not a Number One Starter but an elite arm. Does that describe Buchholz? He doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence in me, aside from his ability to woo D List celebrities.

The more I think about it, the more I think the comparison flatters Drabek. Buchholz posted reasonable huge minor league numbers, never striking out fewer than 10 per nine innings on his ascent to the big leagues.

Consider Buchholz's numbers in his first full season with the Red Sox (as a 24 year old.) 8.53 K/9, 4.86 BB/9 1.30 HR/9, 47.7% GB, 14.7% HR/FB. 6.75 ERA, 4.82 FIP facing 357 batters.

Kyle Drabek as a 24 year old: 5.94 K/P, 6.44 BB/9, 1.11 HR/9, 44.8% GB, 12.3% HR/FB, 5.70 ERA, 5.44 FIP facing 335 batters.

Put another way...awful.

Buchholz went down for two months, came back, then started the following year in AAA. When he finally made it back to the big leagues, he dropped two strikeouts per nine from his repertoire but also shaved a walk. His best season was, not coincidentally, the year his HR/FB sat uncharacteristically low for most of the season.

Drabek doesn't really have the strikeouts to spare at this point. Not in the big leagues (when he nibbles and pouts) but not on his minor league resume either.

I can't pretend to know what kind of pitcher Kyle Drabek might be when he "figures it out" but as far as comps go, I'm a little worried. The areas of the Fangraphs leaderboard that Clay Buchholz hangs don't exactly teem with front of the rotation studs.

What kind of future can Drabek provide? I'm a little lost, to be honest. Feel free to let fly with your most optimistic and/or bitterly pessimistic guesses for the future. I'm all ears.


  1. There is no doubt in my mind Drabek will end up being a really great pitcher, he just looks like too much of a competitor not to. I think at the beginning of the year when he was throwing softer he would end up getting better results. Regardless he just needs to start throwing strikes because when he does, look out.

    If we can get some positive starts from Stewart and get Drabek sorted out, this may end up being a good move for the Jays in the long run.

  2. I've watched several of his starts, and I think he just needs to simplify. Aim for the middle of the plate and let the natural movement of his pitches do the work. Use the curve and change to keep hitters honest, and just build from there. Stop trying to be cute with cutters.

  3. Brett Cecil has pitched 2 of his last 3 starts as complete games. No respect here.

    I'm more annoyed about a team that insists over and over they are going to do one thing, then do the other without so much as a 'gee, maybe you guys were right all along'. Why say anything to the media at all?

  4. What exactly do you want Greg W? Should Farrell go to the media before Drabek's start and say: "Yea, if Drabek shits the bed in this start he is demoted for sure."

  5. seems like the bandwagon exit is as busy as the bandwagon entrance. give me a break. he will straighten his head out and be back better than ever. he's the jays #2 starter for years to come. have faith.

  6. Just a question: other than faith, what suggests he's a number 2 starter?

  7. How about this? He sits in 8th place in the Majors for fastball velocity (just .1 MPH slower than King Felix) and has a nasty curveball when he chooses to throw it. If he would just stop nibbling around the corners and come after hitters, he would be fine. It's just a matter of trusting his stuff. And he doesn't have to be a #2 either with Morrow and Romero in the rotation. He also doesn't turn 24 until December, he has plenty of time to learn.

  8. Fair points all. Duly considered.

  9. I think the Phillies did a great snow job on the Jays. I have always thought that Drabek was not the hot prospect he has been portrayed. AA and the Jays brass have been doing their best to cover up the fact they got jobbed by the Philles.

    At best Drabek might be OK as a 4th or 5th starter, but never a top of the rotation guy.

    Makes ya wonder what the Jays will really end up with as a result of the Halladay trade.


  10. Seeing Drabek's stuff both on TV and live, I think he has a lot of potential, perhaps as a #2 starter, or better. I agree with Gregg Zaun's analysis in problems that have shown up with Drabek's mechanics.

    Early in the season, I noticed his fall off towards first base and thought "that can't be a good thing for his control." I've also been concerned about his abandonment of his curveball. It looked nasty as anything when he came up last September, but he's rarely throwing it this year. My hunch is that because of control issues, the coaches are telling him to throw the fastball more to try to locate it better.

    If he masters his mechanics, finds his control, and varies his repertoire more, he'll be a stud. But who else can name a pitcher who fell in love with his fastball and will never be the pitcher he projected out to be (A.J. Burnett).

  11. Comp: the Halladay himself.

    Halladay was 1.9/5.6/5.9 at 23, Drabek is 1.1/6.4/5.9 this year. The bad news is, that means he's got to go to single-A, learn how to pitch all over again, and Mel Queen isn't exactly available...

    Barring that, I think Jason Marquis is doable.

  12. It's never too early to be concerned about a prospect.... they are prospects after all. But I think Drabek will eventually settle in as an above average #2 starter. He's still young, has got wicked natural stuff and obviously hates failing. Not to mention a Cy Young winning father to talk him through tough times. He'll be alright.


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