Phillies righthander Kyle Drabek and Brewers righthander Jeremy Jeffress both signed for $1.55 million after being selected one pick apart in the 2006 draft–18th and 16th overall, respectively. Drabek’s makeup and Rookie-level performance (1.91 WHIP and 14 K in 23 IP) were spun into a bit of a caution flag in his debut, while Jeffress’ 100+ mph fastball and Rookie-level performance (1.62 WHIP and 37 K in 34 IP) attracted a ton of buzz.
Now, Drabek is fresh off a strong 2007 starting debut (6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB and 4 K), while Jeffress, who had some makeup issues of his own this spring, isn’t on a full-season roster.
Low Class A Lakewood pitching coach Ed Hodge said he was impressed with Drabek and how his batterymate Tuffy Gosewisch, a 23-year-old catcher who the Phillies have working with their Lakewood pitching staff, handled him.
“Overall, it was a very solid performance . . . (his) fastball showed some life, pretty good command of the curveball, and I was very, very happy with the progress of the changeup,” Hodge said.
“You see Kyle’s confidence; he got more and more comfortable as the game went on. And they did a great job incorporating the changeup. Going into his last inning there, after he’d given up a run, I was very happy that he kept his composure and kept his act together and righted the ship.”
Keeping his composure was an issue for Drabek in the Gulf Coast League after the draft, where he often let his emotions get the better of him. But the Phillies were convinced that by getting the righthander in a regular routine would also straighten out any kind of discipline issues and also improve his ability to focus on the task at hand.
“I don’t have any complaints with the way he’s going about his business whatsoever,” Hodge said. “You’ve got to sit back and he’s still and 18-year-old kid, so you have to reel him in a little bit every once in a while. He’s just a care-free kid and sometimes you just have to remind him that it’s not play time, it’s work time.”
Drabek is still going through growing pains with his fastball command, but it’s improved somewhat since the Phillies simplified his delivery. His leg kick isn’t nearly as high as it was as an amateur, and he has much less of a turn with his body as he leans back to begin his windup.
“I want him to get better at working down in the zone, using both sides of the plate as he wants to, elevating when he wants to–not just rearing back and just trying to throw the ball by people,” Hodge said. ” At times he still does that because he’s got a strong arm and he is a kid, so that’s the natural thing to do.”
Drabek’s curveball can be devastating on hitters when he commands it consistently, and while he left a few up in the zone on Tuesday, Hodge was pleased with the pitch overall.
“It was tight and had nice depth on it,” Hodge said. “For the most part, he kept the thing down in the zone–he elevated a couple and gave up some loud outs–but still, the bottom line is he did a pretty good job throwing it for strikes.”