Prospect Report: Kyle Drabek

Kyle Drabek, the son of former NL Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek, has seen his name pop up in trade rumors quite a bit in recent months.  With the Phillies angling to acquire Cliff Lee (which they did without parting with Drabek) and potentially Roy Halladay, it would make sense that teams would target the player who may be the best pitching prospect in the system.

Pitching between Single and Double-A last season, Drabek went 12-3 with a 3.19 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 163 innings in 2009.  He showed excellent control, posting a K/9 of 8.23 versus a BB/9 of 2.76.  Having undergone Tommy John surgery in 2007, it’s safe to say that he is showing no ill effects from the procedure.

His curveball is his calling card, with Padres prospect Mat Latos (who played with Drabek in 2005 at the “Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic at the Cal Ripken complex in Aberdeen, MD” according to this ESPN article), saying:

“I’ve seen a lot of curveballs and some nasty sliders, but not a curveball like that. All I could think was, ‘I’m glad I’m not a hitter.”’

He also features a fastball that sits between 88 and 93 mph, which “usually at the top end of that range, and has solid-average lifeusually at the top end of that range, and has solid-average life” according to Baseball America.  Also in his arsenal is a changeup, though it is clearly his third pitch.

At 22-years old, the right-handed pitcher has one major flaw, and that is his performance against left-handed hitters.  Righties hit .185 against him last season, a spectacular number, whereas lefties hit .284.  Part of it was poor luck, with a .351 BABIP, but it is a trend that has to be watched closely.

His overall BABIP of .305 is realistic, and even with an improvement against left-handed hitters, you cannot expect him to maintain a .246 mark against righties.  At the end of the day, you could easily expect a .305 number overall, as his performance against lefties should improve, while he will not be quite as lucky against righties.

He did a tremendous job keeping the ball in the ballpark last season, posting a HR/FB of 4.8%.  Is it a number that he can maintain in the upper levels of the minors?  At Double-A it was 7.2% (HR/FB of 0.82), so it is safe to assume that he is going to see a bit more of an increase there.  That, in turn, will affect his ERA.

He also saw a significant decrease in his strikeouts as he moved up levels:

  • Single-A: 10.41 (64.0 IP)
  • Double-A: 6.82 (99.0 IP)

With the stuff that he has, I can’t see him falling any further than he did, even against more experienced hitters.  Keep in mind that he very easily could have simply tired as the season wore on.  Look at his innings pitched totals since his minor league debut in 2006, thanks in part to his serious injury:

  • 2006 – 23.1
  • 2007 – 54.0
  • 2008 – 32.1

While he is not likely to be a double-digit strikeout artist, I could easily see him maintain a 7+ K/9 range even in Triple-A or the Major Leagues.

With all that said, what do I see for Drabek in 2010?  A lot is going to depend on the moves the Phillies make.  Will they part with him?  Will they acquire a starting pitcher?  Sure up the bullpen?

There are some who feel that Drabek could transition well to the bullpen, but that just wouldn’t make much sense to me.  I know they are in need of help, but it makes more sense for them to invest money there this offseason, keeping Drabek for when they are in need of a starting pitcher.

It’s only a matter of time before the Phillies are in need there, given the state of the rotation, so look for him to make an appearance at some point.  There is some risk, especially given the falloff he had once promoted to Double-A, but do not be mistaken.  He is a very good pitching prospect (ranked by Baseball America as the Phillies #2 prospect heading into 2010) and is certainly worth owning in all dynasty formats.

What are your thoughts on Drabek?  How good could he be?  Will he make an impact in 2010?

To read the previous article, click here.

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