By JAY LeBLANC
It appears that the Tommy John surgery that limited Philadelphia Phillies prospect Kyle Drabek to just 18 total starts in 2007 and 2008 will prove to be nothing more than minor speedbump on his road to the big leagues. Drabek - the son of 1990 National League Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek - quickly rediscovered his pre-surgery stuff after returning to action last summer and has been nothing short of dominant so far in 2009. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-hander forced his way to Double-A by going 4-1 with 2.48 ERA and 74 K’s in 61 2/3 advanced Class A innings and is 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four starts since his promotion.
Drabek was considered one of the top high school hurlers available in the 2006 draft, but concerns about his makeup caused him to fall to the Phillies at No. 18 overall. He struggled in short-season Class A after signing for $1.55 million, however, and was off to a so-so start in 2007 when the need for Tommy John surgery arose. The Phillies made the most of Drabek’s down time by tweaking his mechanics, and it has paid quick dividends. The 21-year-old has posted an impressive K-to-walk ratio of nearly 3-to-1 this season (91 strikeouts, 31 walks in 87 2/3 innings) after fanning 60 and walking 34 in his first 77 professional innings.
I had the chance to speak with Drabek - the fifth-best prospect in the Phillies organization, according to Baseball America - last week when his Reading Phillies were in Bowie, Md., to take on the Baltimore Orioles-affiliated Bowie Baysox.
Q: How much of a role did your father play in your development as a pitcher?
A: A lot. He was able to help out every day when I was younger and it was always good to have him around to teach me how to play and stuff like that.
Q: Could you talk a bit about the different pitches you throw and how you like to use them?
A: Just fastball, curveball, change. I’d say my out pitch is either my fastball or curveball. I started throwing a new changeup, so I’m still working on that.
Q: How does your present stuff compare to your pre-Tommy John surgery stuff?
A: I would say, after Tommy John, my stuff might have gotten a little bit better. Definitely the control did from changing my motion, which helped out a bunch.
Q: Do you consider yourself a strikeout guy, a guy who pitches to contact, or some mixture of the two?
A: Probably a mixture of the two. I think before Tommy John I tried to be the strikeout guy, and then afterwards I just realized that I need to go out there and pitch. So whatever gets outs, gets outs.
Q: Is there any pitcher, past or present, that you either look up to or try to model your approach after?
A: I guess my dad. I mean, it was always fun watching him pitch and people tell me that he had a great mound presence, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
Q: What are some of your goals for this season?
A: Finish the whole season. Really just stay healthy and keep pitching like I know how to.
Q: How soon do you think you’ll be ready to help the Phillies?
A: Whenever they want me. I guess whenever they call me up I’ll be ready.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to check out our previous National Pastime Prospect Q&A’s:
2009 -Jack McGeary, Nationals; L.J. Hoes, Orioles; Jordan Danks, White Sox; Mike Moustakas, Royals; Danny Duffy, Royals; Kyle Skipworth, Marlins; Xavier Avery, Orioles; Ryan Kalish, Red Sox; Derek Norris, Nationals; Zach Britton, Orioles; Pedro Alvarez, Pirates; Robbie Grossman, Pirates; Brandon Waring, Orioles; Casey Kelly, Red Sox; Michael Taylor, Phillies; Brandon Snyder, Orioles.
2008 -Matt Wieters, Orioles; Ross Detwiler, Nationals; Adrian Alaniz, Nationals; Jake Arrieta, Orioles; Greg Golson, Phillies; John Shelby III, White Sox; Brandon Erbe, Orioles; Chris Marrero, Nationals; Jason Donald, Phillies; John Ely, White Sox; Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Michael Burgess, Nationals; Wes Hodges, Indians; Colton Willems, Nationals; Chris Tillman, Orioles; Dominic Brown, Phillies; Brandon Hicks, Braves; Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals; Nick Weglarz, Indians; Gorkys Hernandez, Braves; Beau Mills, Indians; Stephen King, Nationals; Brad Bergesen, Orioles; Fernando Martinez, Mets; Derrick Robinson, Royals; David Hernandez, Orioles; Jason Castro, Astros; Bobby Parnell, Mets; George Kontos, Yankees; Brian Matusz, Orioles; Matt LaPorta, Indians; Austin Jackson, Yankees; Jeff Bianchi, Royals; Cole Rohrbough, Braves; Pat Venditte, Yankees.