May 27, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Kyle Drabek (4) reacts to giving up a hit in the second inning of the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Is it time for Toronto Blue Jays fans to give up on Kyle Drabek?

5.0 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4BB, 3K

That was the line from Kyle Drabek‘s latest outing on Sunday for the Buffalo Bisons. 4 years ago the Toronto Blue Jays gave the Philadelphia Phillies a Christmas gift in the form Roy Halladay, one of the greatest pitchers in the game at the time. It was the first move that newly appointed general manger Alex Anthopoulos had to deal with. Without the addition of Kyle Drabek in return with other prospects the likelihood of Toronto trading Roy Halladay to Philadelphia would have been bleak.

The once can’t miss prospect is now making Toronto fans cringe at the thought of him.

The consensus was once that Kyle Drabek was “the one”, the prospect to take over as the ace of Toronto’s rotation once he made it to the big leagues. All of that optimism is now extinct. After making his major league debut in 2010 the hope of all Toronto fans were at an all-time high with thoughts of Kyle Drabek and Ricky Romero leading Toronto’s future.

That worked out well.

Despite losing all 3 starts after his major league debut, Toronto and their fans were overjoyed to see Kyle in the majors. We saw the raw stuff that made him the first round pick and it excited us for the future to come.

While 2011 was a disappointment for Kyle after pitching to a 6.06 ERA,  it was 2011 when we noticed the problem that will hinder Drabek from reaching his potential. In 78.2 of major league innings Kyle walked 55 batters while striking out only 51 hitters. This wasn’t a product of pitching in the patient AL East. In the same year Kyle pitched 75 minor league innings and he walked 41 hitters. That’s a total of 96 walks in only 153.2 innings. The walks translated into the success (or lack thereof) Kyle experienced in 2011, evident by his 6.76 total ERA in both the majors and minors.

2012 brought the optimism of a new beginning with it. Kyle experienced a better walk total but it still wasn’t great (47 in 71.1 IP). His ERA (4.67) was down from the previous year and matched his win total from the previous year (4 wins) in 5 fewer starts. But that enthusiasm was short lived, as Kyle needed his second Tommy John surgery of his career ending the hope that he would be Toronto’s ace some day.

In late 2013 Kyle returned to the Blue Jays after recovering from the surgery. When rehabbing in the minors, Kyle opened the eyes of many people in the Toronto organization as well as many fans, displaying the control that he had been lacking since being joining the Toronto organization. Despite going 1-4, Drabek pitched to a 3.14 ERA and even more impressively 6 walk and 35 strikeouts in 43 IP. That earned Kyle a shot to pitch in Toronto’s bullpen but it was too late in the year to determine if he found his control.

Now it comes to this year. We all know that Drabek had more than a opportunity to earn a starting job in Toronto this Spring Training. Unfortunately for Kyle he was unable to harness his control in the spring by walking 6 hitters in 8 innings and allowing 8 runs. In the minors this year Kyle allowed 15 walks in 29.2 IP and owns a 4.85 ERA.

Is it possible for someone to be too talented? Many people believe that the movement that Drabek processes that make scouts drool is the source of the problem. Because his pitches move so much he can’t predict where they will end up and relies on swings for his success. Unfortunately major league hitters are smarter than that and the patience they process will make Kyle work.

I also remember a story I’m just going to put out there that when Greg Maddux was in the minors he shorten his stride by just a bit and lost some velocity on his pitches. But the lack of velocity was made up by the control he found, and the ability to harness his movement to his advantage. Maybe Kyle should do this. Sacrifice some velocity (which he has plenty to spare) in order to control his pitches. Hopefully for him he realizes that throwing strikes is more important that just throwing hard be for it’s too late.


All stats courtesy of and

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  • Andrew van Laar

    Really interesting article about his ”stuff’. I guess I never thought that the breaks and movement on his pitches could attribute to his command issues. I wonder if taking a bit off his pitches will help him out…

    • Jason Ramnauth

      That would create another problem. Remember Morrow a few years ago when he was hit around how because he was holding back on pitches trying to go deep into games. It’s a cycle of chaos

  • Justin Jay

    This was what I used to wonder about Morrow and a few other pitchers, their strong breaks working against them. But hey, Pedro Martinez figured it out. Why can’t these guys?

  • bob l.

    I’ve thought for the past two years that drabek would look better out of the bullpen as a 7 or 8 inning set up guy.

    • Paul Miller

      It doesn’t matter if they make Kyle a starter or reliever, he still needs overcome the control problems. A set up guy can’t be giving up an excess amount of walks.

      • bob l.

        no, but he could eliminate a pitch or two which might help.

  • JaysHopeful

    I’m reminded of something Gregg Zaun said when talking about catching Dustin McGowan for the first time. Speaking with the pitching coach Zaun explained that McGowan had a great fastball, but lacked command. The pitching coach replied that Zaun shouldn’t pay attention to that, and use McGowan’s slider as his control pitch. Zaun then commented that if McGowan lacked fastball command he may not be ready for the majors. The pitching coach waved this concern off. McGowan’s got great stuff, but has struggled with success and injuries.

    Guys like Drabek and even Romero have great movement on their pitches, but often lack (the baseball 101) fastball command that is so key to pitching success. And if, as Zaun said, Toronto pitchers are using sliders as their control pitch – and sliders are really hard on a guys’ arms if they throw too many – this may be contributing to injuries and inconsistencies. Maybe there’s a pitching development problem here…

  • Joe Fowler

    Let’s Keep in mind that Drabek is not only 26, but is now finding himself in competition with the likes of Stroman, Sanchez, and Nolin, while being able to see the decline of Ricky Romero. That is a lot mentally to deal with.

    Kyle has great stuff, and while I agree he needs to work on his control (and let’s face it, every pitcher runs into control issues now and again) He has shown he can find his command. Do I think it’s time to give up on him? Hell no.

    • Jason Ramnauth

      I appreciate your opinion, but do you think that Toronto should’ve called up Kyle instead of Stroman? Basically I’m asking if you think that is it ok that Drabek has fallen on the depth chart?