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Scouting Blue Jays Pitcher Kyle Drabek

May 24, 2009 BY ALEX EISENBERG 9 Comments

This article marks the first in a mini-series of reports focusing on pitching prospects in the Philadelphia Phillies’ organization. You can see profiles on Jason Knapp, Van Worley, and Mike Stutes by clicking here.

Let’s start with Kyle Drabek, who has Philly fans all excited because he’s returned from Tommy John surgery even better than before. Drabek, I believe, is the Phillies best pitching prospect at the moment. Carlos Carrasco is a good prospect and almost major league ready, but he’s in a class below Drabek in terms of upside

I don’t have all the footage I want of Drabek, but from what I’ve seen, it’s pretty obvious that Drabek has undergone some mechanical changes since being drafted in 2006. Below is Drabek’s draft video. See if you notice any problem points in his delivery:

*Credit to the MLB Scouting Bureau

Here’s what I noticed: Drabek was a short strider who didn’t get a lot of help from his lower body. Notice Drabek’s lack of a dragline as his back foot comes off the ground before release. I discuss the dragline more in this article that diagnoses Chien-Ming Wang’s problems. No dragline doesn’t mean a pitcher isn’t able to produce velocity (Drabek’s velocity was fine), but it’s a sign that Drabek’s mechanics weren’t efficient. The velocity generated by Drabek came mostly from his arm as a result of tremendous arm speed.

From my view, it looked as if Drabek’s hips were opening early, throwing his timing off. He wasn’t generating a lot of separation between his torso and hips. Drabek ended up landing softly and the torso and hips actually turned together rather than turning in a sequence or a chain like they’re supposed to. As a result, Drabek was pitching up hill and the back foot would come off the ground in an effort to get himself over top of his front leg.

I’m going to compare the catcher’s view clips of Drabek in high school (right) and when he pitched in the Hawaii Baseball League prior to the 2009 season (left).

*Credit to gianthawaiian78 and the MLB Scouting Bureau

Drabek’s mechanics are much simpler than before. If you look closely at the back foot, you see Drabek now has a dragline, which is a sign he’s achieved mechanical efficiency. In terms of posture, he’s more upright and balanced. The leg kick isn’t as high and wide. Drabek’s stride is also longer, which was an adjustment he made back in 2007.

Drabek does a much better job of staying closed and using his body to generate velocity. He generates a lot of separation between his torso and hips — note the torso facing toward third base, the hips pointing toward home. The draft version Drabek would have problems flying open with his front shoulder.

Given how deliberate Drabek’s wind-up is and considering the late body rotation he uses, Drabek’s fastball explodes out of his hand. His release point is tough to pick up, which gives his fastball a sneaky element to it. You can see this in the clip below as Drabek faces Buster Posey, one of the best catching prospects in the game. Posey is late in reacting to the eye-high fastball because he struggles to pick the pitch up out of Drabek’s hand. Drabek then proceeds to change Posey’s eye-level by placing a hard slider in the dirt (right), which results in a strikeout of Posey.

*Credit to gianthawaiian78

The slider Drabek uses is part of a four-pitch mix that includes a mid-90′s fastball with good tailing action and a 12-to-6 spike curve with excellent bite. Drabek also has an improving change-up that he still has to maintain his arm speed on.

Not including tonight’s start, he’s been striking out a little over 30% of the batters he’s faced, while walking just under eight. His command has improved since being drafted, but it still needs to be honed. When he misses, it’s usually up in the strike zone. He’s been unlucky thus far with a .348 BABIP against, but that can partly be attributed to getting too much of the plate at times.

Drabek has recovered from his Tommy John as good as the Phillies could have hoped and this year seems to be the breakout season many were expecting from Drabek. He ultimately has the potential to be a front of the rotation starter. But he’s more likely to settle in as a strong No. 3/weak No. 2 starter.

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    • jak440 said:

      It will be interesting to see how quickly Drabek’s change-up improves in the Phillies system. Rich Dubee has done an awesome job teaching the pitch to the major league staff as has Cole Hamels. Ryan Madson’s changeup is now absolutely devastating.

    • tjc said:

      This was excellent – very informative.

    • Alex Eisenberg (author) said:

      Thank you for the kind words, tjc.

      jak440, I agree, Dubee has done excellent job in teaching the change-up to pitchers in the Phillies farm system.

    • Focus On: Toronto Blue Jay Roy Halladay « Sysomos Blog said:

      [...] are “j.p.”, “pitchers” and “drabek”, which refers to Kyle Drabek, one of the top prospects for the Philadelphia Phillies, who have been mentioned as the leader [...]

    • Cole H. said:

      Yeah, these guy is something special. He’s at the cusp of a long and successful MLB career. His underlying numbers and mechanics strongly suggest that all the hype we’re hearing about him is well deserved, in fact people haven’t fully realized how valuable this guy is.

    • Mike890 said:

      This kid is crazy good. I saw him pitch once when he was at AA at Reading. Normally I wouldn’t be impressed when you pitch against a buncha minor leaguers but his stuff was amazing. He’s just scary, he can really put people away, this kid is gonna be big!

      P.S. This is coming from a Mets fan LOL

    • tkj17 said:

      Yea, thanks for the review. Just backed up my gut feeling. I just snapped him up in this fantasy league of mine. Had to give up a lot but he truly is something special. I am really high on him and rightfully so, knaw what I mean?

    • jakef709 said:

      Yea, with the addition of a killer changeup, Drabek would have 5 strikeout pitches. Not many pitchers have that kind of ability, he’s destined to be a great starter in the bigs.