For one day, the spotlight dimmed a bit.
With Raul Ibanez spending a day in Reading, PA for a rehab assignment, Kyle Drabek had a little attention taken away from him yesterday.
Make no mistake, however: There were still plenty of people at the ballpark to see Drabek.
Plenty of fans. Plenty of scouts. Plenty hoping that very soon, Kyle Drabek will become one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball.
At just 21 years of age, he is noted as the top pitching prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies' organization.
Drabek became the Phillies' 18th overall pick in the 2006 Draft. Most mock drafts had him in the top ten or higher, but he fell down the board and into the lap of the Phillies.
Surely, they didn't mind.
Drabek was arrested in 2005 for public intoxication, but the charges were later dropped. Many had said he wasn't mature enough; not ready to take the next step to becoming a Major League pitcher.
Certainly, there were people Drabek wanted to prove wrong.
The beginning of a dream
Maybe the future was all too clear for Kyle.
His dad, Doug, pitched for 13 seasons in the Major Leagues. Kyle basically grew up with a baseball attached to his hand.
Drabek attended Woodlands High School (TX), and excelled at shortstop and pitcher. In his senior year, he was 12-0 with a 1.18 ERA.
The year prior, he went 11-1 with a 0.82 ERA.
His fastball touched 96 MPH on the radar gun, sitting in the 93 or 94 MPH range consistently.
Beyond his fastball was an exceptional curveball, which he knows he can throw as a pitch to get batters out. He also possessed an above average slider and change-up in a repertoire that impressed coaches and scouts alike.
Just 18 years of age, Drabek had a tough time adjusting in the Gulf Coast League at the end of his draft year.
He posted a 7.71 ERA and struggled with his control. He allowed 33 hits in 23.1 innings, and struck out just 14 batters.
It was a far cry from his high school career, where striking out 10 or 12 batters in a game was old hat for Drabek.
He would have to learn how to adjust. For many young players who are levels above their competition as a youth, it can be tough to make changes.
Changes were made, and 2007 was, in part, a successful year for Drabek. He jumped up to the South Atlantic League and started ten games for the Lakewood Blue Claws.
He posted a 4.33 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, allowed just 50 hits in 54 innings, and saw his K/9 ratio spike to a respectable 7.7.
However, in June, Drabek complained of arm troubles. He tried to work through them, but in late July, the symptoms had worsened.
Drabek had the dreaded Tommy John surgery on July 25, knocking him out for the rest of 2007 and most of 2008. The Phillies were confident he would return stronger than he had been.
As it turns out, they may be right.
Drabek returned late in 2008, with enough of a window to give the Phillies a taste of where he stood.
He made eight total starts in the Gulf Coast League and New York-Penn League, and fared very well. The velocity hadn't returned in full, and he wasn't striking many batters out.
He was, however, healthy and ready to prove that 2009 would be his best year yet.
Drabek didn't go into the season as the Phillies' top pitching prospect. That honor was reserved for Carlos Carrasco.
It has become clear that Drabek, while still just 21 years of age, has become the best pitching prospect in the organization.
There was a certain excitement back in 2006 when another impressive prospect, Cole Hamels, took the hill in his Minor League starts. Although he may not be receiving the same attention, there is a buzz about Drabek when he starts.
All Drabek has done this year in two levels, Hi-A and AA, is go 9-1 with a 2.58 ERA. He has 110 strikeouts in 108.1 innings in the Minors, has allowed just 90 hits, and is throwing harder than ever.
There will certainly be some times in the coming weeks that Drabek's name is tossed about in trade proposals prior to the July 31 trade deadline.
The Phillies may be interested in Toronto right-hander Roy Halladay, and it would take a cornucopia of talent to acquire Halladay if he becomes readily available.
However, sometimes it's just best to hold on to your prospects. In the very near future, the Phillies' rotation could be comprised of Hamels, Drabek, Carrasco, and J.A. Happ, all of whom started their professional careers in the Phillies' organization.
Many would like to see Kyle Drabek finish his here, too. He has a long way to go before he starts thinking about the end, however.
That spotlight is waiting to shine.
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