Prospect Rankings No. 1: Kyle Drabek – Phillies Nation

Prospect Rankings No. 1: Kyle Drabek

Kyle Drabek, RHPdrabek

Born: 12/8/1987 in Victoria, Texas

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 185

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

RankingsAll 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



  1. winks tidley

    October 5, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Isn’t Drabek a little on the short and on the small side to be a #1 prospect? Just wondering. Also, the fact he is the spoiled son of a former major leaguer makes me wonder. I hope I am wrong and I hope the kid has mental toughness and coachability and becomes a huge success.

  2. SDO

    October 5, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Someone pointed out previously that there haven’t been any pitchers that have had TJ surgery and had long successful careers as starters in the league. How true is this fact?

  3. Steve-o

    October 5, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    TJ surgery is not as daunting as it used to be. Many pitchers have successfully come back from TJ and had fine careers. Some have even gained a 2nd life after the surgery. With Drabek, I’d expect to see him in the Majors as a potential September call-up next year, not dissimilar from David Price’s call-up in 2008. In 2010, he should be a solid fixture in the Phils rotation along with Hamels and Happ. He could make the rotation next year out of Spring Training, but I’d be surprised to see that happen. With Hamels, Lee, Happ, and Blanton entrenched as the top 4 starters, there is little reason to push Drabek so quickly.

  4. Ben Seal

    October 5, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    The surgery is getting to the point that most pitchers are able to rebound just fine from it, many of them improving over their previous output. It appears that’s what Drabek has been doing, developing as a pitcher since his surgery. Also, the road back from his injury seems to have made some changes in the way Drabek carries himself. It was a good lesson for him that nothing is for granted, and he seems to be taking advantage of his talents better now.

  5. Corey Seidman

    October 5, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Many pitchers rebound from Tommy John surgery. In some cases, guys throw harder post-surgery than they did prior to it. I think that’s referred to as “Henry Rowengartner Syndrome”

  6. Brian Michael

    October 5, 2009 at 9:50 pm


  7. Prince Fielder's Bat

    October 6, 2009 at 1:22 am

    Phillies should trade this guy and Werth for Halliday since this season is over. Scrap Ibanez, Lidge and Victorino for Sabathia and then trade Utley, Howard and Rollins for Dan haren. Milton Bradley would be a good pickup from the Cubs and Phillies should trade Franscisco and Ruiz for him to help the Cubs out. That would be a great team. Offense and pitching.

  8. Jeff Y.

    October 6, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Great post on all the Phillies prospects. Nice job.

  9. Manny

    October 6, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Great list, thanks Ben.

  10. Pat Gallen

    October 6, 2009 at 9:59 am

    I hope this kid really does live up to the hype, because he would fit in well with Hamels, Happ, Lee, and Blanton for the next year or two, depending on how long each guy stays. But the pieces are staying in place for sure.

  11. winks tidley

    October 6, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Excellent analysis on the Phils’ prospects. Instills me with long-term hope. Thanks

  12. Corey Seidman

    October 6, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Awesome job here, Ben. It was really informative reading the stories of these guys. Sadly, prior to your list, guys like Travis d’Arnaud and Vance Worley were just funny names that I knew the Phillies were somewhat-high on.

  13. DannyO

    October 13, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Recently drafted pitcher Brody Colvin should be in the top 25

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