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Kyle Drabek

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Kyle Jordan Drabek

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The son of Doug Drabek, Kyle Drabek was one of the most-hyped prospects entering the 2006 amateur draft. Throwing a fastball that would reach 97 mph and a very good slider, Kyle went 12-0, 1.18 his senior year in high school (he had been 11-1, 0.82 the prior year), striking out 138 in 77 innings and batting .443 as a part-time shortstop. He was named All-American as a utility man by Baseball America. In football, he caught over 1,000 yards as a wide receiver his junior year and ran the 40-meter dash in 4.5 seconds. Due to concerns about his character, he fell to the 18th pick in the draft, when he was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies. He was signed by scout Steve Cohen (for a $1,550,000 bonus) and began his pro career that summer with the GCL Phillies. However, Drabek struggled with the team, going 1-3 with a 7.71 ERA in 6 starts.

Drabek had been arrested for public intoxication in January 2005 - charges were later dropped and Kyle denied guilt. In September of that year, he wrecked an SUV when he rammed it into a tree as he was driving to watch his little sister cheerlead.

Kyle was 5-1 with a 4.33 ERA for the 2007 Lakewood BlueClaws but then had Tommy John surgery and was out until late 2008, when he made appearances with the GCL Phillies (0-1, 2.25) and Williamsport Crosscutters (1-2, 2.21). He allowed averages under .160 at both of his 2008 rehab stops.

In 2009, Drabek continued his comeback with the Clearwater Threshers (4-1, 2.48, .218 opponent average, 74 K in 61 2/3 IP) and Reading Phillies (8-2, 3.64). He led Phillies farmhands in ERA (3.19), strikeouts (150) and opponent average (.239). Baseball America named him the #5 Florida State League prospect (between Yonder Alonso and Starlin Castro) and #3 in the Eastern League (behind Pedro Alvarez and Madison Bumgarner). He pitched in the 2009 Futures Game, relieving Chris Tillman in the second for the USA. He retired Wilmer Flores, Luis Durango and Alcides Escobar in order, then was relieved by Brian Matusz.

He was one of the players, along with Travis d'Arnaud and Michael Taylor, acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays in the deal that sent ace Roy Halladay to the Phillies after the 2009 season. Playing for AA New Hampshire, Drabek threw a 98-pitch no-hitter against the New Britain Rock Cats on July 4, 2010. He finished the year 14-9 with a 2.94 ERA and a .215 opponent average. He led the Eastern League in wins, tied Rudy Owens for third in strikeouts (132) and was third in ERA (behind Owens and Tom Milone). He was named EL Pitcher of the Year, beating out Owens most notably.

He was called up to play for the parent club, the Blue Jays, on September 15, 2010 against the Baltimore Orioles. His father also had his first major league start in Baltimore, on June 15, 1986, playing for the New York Yankees. The junior Drabek got his first big league strikeout against Ty Wigginton in the bottom of the first inning. He was charged with the loss, giving up 3 runs and 9 hits in 6 innings, walking 3 and striking out 5. He went 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA in 3 starts that September.

Drabek struggled with Toronto early in 2011 after making the team out of spring training. He fumbled on the mound to the tune of a 4-5 record and a 5.70 ERA in 14 starts before being sent to the AAA Las Vegas 51s on June 14th. The season had started well, though, when he gave up a single hit over 7 innings to win his first start of the year, 6-1, over the Minnesota Twins on April 2nd, but he seemed to lose his command after being rocked by the New York Yankees for 7 hits and 5 runs in 2 1/3 innings on April 30th, leading to his being sent down 6 weeks later. He continued to be hit hard in his first taste of AAA, putting up 7.44 ERA in 15 starts for Las Vegas. Even though his record was a decent 5-4, he pitched quite poorly as he gave up 111 hits in 75 innings, while walking 41 and striking out only 45. When he was called up in September, he only made 4 more appearances, all of them out of the bullpen, but a terrible outing in which he gave up 6 runs in 2 innings to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on September 20th meant that his final ERA was a bloated 6.06.

Given his disappointing results the previous year, there was concern that Drabek simply did not have the stuff to get major league hitters out, and heading into spring training for 2012, he was not being counted on to contribute much. However, he made the starting rotation with a solid spring performance, and showed new composure in his first start of the year, facing the Boston Red Sox on April 10th. Stalked an early 3-0 lead, he left the game with one out in the 6th having allowed only one run and was credited with Toronto's 7-3 win. He managed to keep his place in the starting rotation for the next two months, although his results were mixed, with a record of 4-7, 4.67, in 13 starts, and a league-leading 47 walks allowed. After leaving a start against the Washington Nationals on June 13th in the 5th inning with pain in his elbow, he was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament, leading to Tommy John surgery for the second time of his career, the first having occurred in 2006 when he was still in high school.

Drabek is one the rare pitchers in recent baseball history to wear a single-digit number; he wears number 4.

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