Kyle Drabek, RHP
Born: 12/8/1987 in Victoria, Texas
Pitching prospects are always in high demand, and with Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp shipped out to Cleveland in July, the Phillies organization lacks some of the top-end depth that they would surely like to have. But while there may not be many on the farm with enough talent to be considered elite pitching prospects, Kyle Drabek is the one pitcher in the Phillies system that has earned the tag. The past year was a breakthrough campaign for Drabek, as he impressed scouts across the country and had his name whispered in trade conversations. No matter the return on their investment, the Phillies refused to trade the 21-year-old righty, holding on to Drabek with the hopes that he is able to pan out in the same way as homegrown talent like Cole Hamels. Being an elite pitcher in the Phillies organization has been hazardous over the last decade for prospects like Gavin Floyd, many of whom never managed to put it together while in Philly, so to say that Drabek is a sure thing would be a lie. But with the potential to become a frontline starter in the not-too-distant future, Drabek gives the organization a singular talent that makes him both the best and most important prospect in the system.
When Drabek was drafted in the first round (18th overall) in 2006, he was a precocious teenager still riding on the success of his father, Doug, who won the NL Cy Young in 1990. Growing up with everything he wanted, Drabek reportedly developed an attitude that turned off many scouts. But it couldn’t do anything to hide his talent. Drabek throws a fastball that sits in the low-90s and tops out around 95 mph, a pitch that he controls very well. He also offers a changeup that still has room for improvement, as it does not always separate in speed from his fastball. The pitch that makes batters cringe, though, is his hammer curve that has been called the best in the minors. During this year’s Futures Game – where Drabek tossed a 1-2-3 inning – his curveball had scouts and fellow pitchers both paused in admiration. The talent has never wavered for Drabek, but a little over a year ago it was unclear if he would be able to use that great right arm when he had to undergo Tommy John surgery in July 2007.
After starting the 2007 season as a 19-year-old at Lakewood, Drabek’s arm needed work by July that would alter his expected path to the majors. He spent a year recovering before rejoining the Gulf Coast Phils at the end of July 2008. Once the 2009 season began Drabek was fully recovered and pitching at Clearwater, where he shut down any concerns over his health and durability. In 61.2 innings with the Threshers he posted a 2.48 ERA and 74 strikeouts to earn a promotion to Reading. He continued to dominate opponents through his first month at double-A before struggling toward the end of the season and being shut down early for precautionary reasons. After throwing 158 innings without any setbacks it became clear that Drabek is back to top form and ready to resume his charge to the Majors.
Much of the success Drabek enjoyed this year can be attributed to Phillies coaches, who helped the pitcher develop a new delivery that makes him both more effective and less susceptible to injury. In an interview with Baseball Prospectus, Drabek discussed the changes he made.
I had to change my mechanics due to Tommy John. I think that helped me out a bunch with my fastball command, which is one of the main things you need to be a successful pitcher. Before Tommy John I would turn my hips in a way that I would be facing left-centerfield. I wasn’t really looking at the catcher. After Tommy John I’m straight up and down, always looking at the catcher, and that allows me to get my fastball to where I want it easier.
Drabek also shortened his leg kick a bit, resulting in a much smoother approach that is easily repeated, something that clearly had positive effects in 2009. Many will hope for Drabek to be fast-tracked and arrive in the Majors sometime late next summer. He has shown an ability to dominate games, but should be given another full season in the minors, and some time at triple-A, before making such a big jump. With his skill set, though, that time will come. And when it does the Phillies might have in their possession a right-handed complement to Hamels and a homegrown 1-2 punch.
Year Level W L ERA IP H ER BB K K/9
2006 ROOK 1 3 7.71 23.1 33 20 11 14 5.4
2007 A 5 1 4.33 54.0 50 26 23 46 7.7
2008 ROOK/A-1 3 2.23 32.1 17 8 12 16 4.5
2009 A+/AA 12 3 3.19 158.0 141 56 50 150 8.5
Rankings – All previous prospect profiles can be found here, which is also on the left sidebar for easy viewing
1. Kyle Drabek, RHP
2. Domonic Brown, OF
3. Michael Taylor, OF
4. Travis d’Arnaud, C
5. Zach Collier, OF
6. Trevor May, RHP
7. Joe Savery, LHP
8. Vance Worley, RHP
9. Sebastian Valle, C
10. Mike Stutes, RHP
11. Antonio Bastardo, LHP
12. Anthony Gose, OF
13. Colby Shreve, RHP
14. Anthony Hewitt, 3B
15. Justin De Fratus, RHP
16. Sergio Escalona, LHP
17. Yohan Flande, LHP
18. Julian Sampson, RHP
19. John Mayberry, Jr., OF
20. Mike Cisco, RHP
21. Freddy Galvis, SS
22. Jonathan Pettibone, RHP
23. Domingo Santana, OF
24. Jonathan Singleton, 1B
25. Drew Naylor, RHP