ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweets that the Toronto Blue Jays have sent Kyle Drabek down to Triple A Las Vegas, and have called up Zach Stewart from Double A New Hampshire.

As a 23 year old in his first non-September action in the Major Leagues, Drabek has struggled, giving up more walks than any pitcher in baseball by both total number and per nine innings. He’s also the only qualifying starter in the Major Leagues who has walked more batters than he’s struck out. It’s a credit to his stuff that his inability to throw strikes hasn’t led to even more damage, as the young right hander has a 5.70 ERA, 5.44 FIP and a 4.97 xFIP.

As a 24 year old in his second go around at Double A as a starter this season, Stewart has been solid but unspectacular. Over a dozen starts, Stewart has a 4.39 ERA, but a more impressive 3.67 FIP. His walk rate and home run rate have both improved over last year’s numbers, but his strikeout rate has decreased slightly. He’s also suffered from some bad luck in New Hampshire as his .330 BABIP will attest.

Stewart has five pitches that he mixes up well: a four seamer that can reach as high as 96 mph, a sinker/two seamer that has some horizontal movement in addition to its vertical drop, a slider at 83-87 that can be thrown for strikes, a changeup (of course) at 81-85 mph and a curveball that’s similar to his slider.

According to Keith Law, who saw Stewart last September:

He stays over the rubber before driving forward with a long stride, although his arm action is a little long in the back and he pronates relatively late in the delivery. I know several scouts see Stewart as a sinker/slider pen guy, but I see four pitches, a good frame, and a pitcher who likes to attack hitters. I see a potential No. 2 starter, maybe a No. 3 if the changeup isn’t always where it was tonight.

As for Drabek, there appears to be some issues with his confidence in throwing strikes. Among qualified starters, only Derek Lowe has missed the strike zone more often than Drabek this year. Add a below average swinging strike rate, and there’s some obvious difficulties there. I just wonder if the Pacific Coast League is really the best place for a young pitcher who seems afraid of batters making contact to go to gain confidence. The league’s reputation suggests that the location of its teams, the stadiums in which they play and lack of fielding ability all benefit batters as oppose to pitchers.

However, Drabek is far too talented to be pitching the way that he was and something needed to be done.

Throughout this season, Drabek has been one of the more interesting Blue Jays starters to watch because of all the different pitches in his arsenal that he can throw at varying speeds and with different spins. However, one pitch we’ve seen far less of after hearing so much about during his time in the Minors was his curveball. By using his changeup and developing a cutter, Drabek seemed to drop the hook entirely from his repertoire on some nights. It will be interesting to see what role this demotion plays in his development, and what kind of pitcher he returns to Toronto as.

Update: Zach Stewart will start for Toronto on Thursday against the Baltimore Orioles.

Comments (34)

  1. Had to happen. Nobody can be expected to improve while failing as badly as Drabek was. Does anyone know if he was tested for an allergy to the strike zone?

  2. Despite Wilner’s excuses, enough was enough. It clearly became a confidence/mental issue for Drabek in the end, and he’s better served building that up again in the minors like Cecil did/is doing.

    I expected Cecil to take his spot, but I’m more than fine with Stewart being given a shot. This is certainly one way to solve the problem of Zach’s stagnation.

  3. its nice to be able to send down one top prospect and call up another.

  4. I would have sent him to new hampshire personally, going to vegas and seeing a bloop hit to left field go over for a 3 run HR is just going to lead to him nibblying around the corners more

    he needs to get back to trusting his stuff in the zone and get back to throwing that beauty curve of his

  5. I think this is the right move, although I would’ve prefered to see Mills up first. Stewart’s season hasn’t been fantastic, although he started off just as poorly last year too in that New Hampshire cold.

    I’d like Mills to get a crack at the 5th spot though – they already wasted the option, so give him the opportunity, fringe-MLB potential or not.

  6. Thrilled that Stewart is getting the call after reading all the hype from last year despite his numbers in AA.

    The only other pitcher I would have liked to have seen get the call up is Brad Mills. His numbers are incredible for a pitcher in the PCL. Sure he didn’t fair too well in his previous call ups but it’s a very small sample size.

  7. I disagree dc. What is the point of Drabek going to AA and dominating again? He still has things to prove at AAA.

    I was wondering when thei was going to happen considering they were so quick to send Snider down. I am surprised Stewart got the call, I would’ve expected Cecil or Mills.

  8. Stewart’s AA line isn’t exactly dominating. 69.2 IP 4.39 ERA 49 K /21 BB 1.421 WHIP

  9. In my view, there were about 10 core long-term players (i.e. 2013/14 and beyond) on the ML roster at the beginning of the year. It hasn’t exactly gone according to plan as of June 14.. Of course there are shades of grey not reflected in my views below.

    RF – Bautista – real or fluke? – REAL
    1B – Lind – rebound – YES
    C- Arencebia – development – YES
    SS – Escobar – Continued improvement – YES
    SP – Romero – steady performance – YES

    LF – Snider – Development – NO
    2B – Hill – Rebound – NO
    SP – Morrow – Continued improvement – NO
    SP – Cecil – Continued improvement – NO
    SP – Drabek – Development – NO

  10. @lewis Almost all players have bumps along the way. IMO Snider, Cecil, and Drabek are may still go on to have amazing MLB careers. Snider and Drabek are still very young. Remember that Morrow did not hit his stride until late June last year. Hill does look like l;ast year was the real Aaron Hill. No big deal, we’ll let him go and maybe sign him as a FA for very little $$.

  11. It’ll be fun hearing Wilner’s excuses now after going on JaysTalk, PrimeTime Sports, and The Blue Jays This Week and telling everybody how certain he was that Drabek’s issues need to be taken care of at the MLB level. If a caller suggested that Drabek would be best served in the minors, he poo-pooed the notion. Classic.

  12. Stewart was not part of the team’s 40-man roster. I think that the team already had an open spot (the one that was vacated a couple of weeks ago to make room for Lawrie). but now this means that the team will need to find an additional spot on the 40-man roster in order to call up Lawrie next month . … and (someone correct me if I am wrong) they’ll need to also find a further spot to make room for McGowan when he is ready to return. It looks like at least 2 marginal players will be let go over the course of the next month or so.

  13. @JRock

    Entirely agree. It was just a fun little exercise. It’s only June 14.

  14. Well, Wilner wasn’t the only one saying it. But go ahead and feel superior if it makes you feel better.

  15. @NYJ – You make it seem like it was Wilner’s idea to send him down. He’ll probably just say he disagrees with sending him down.


  17. I have no problem sending Kyle down, but he should be sent back down to AA, not AAA PCL hitters will have more success than AA hitters

    Also, why not promote Brad Mills instead of Steward? I understand that Steward is likely a long-term piece of the puzzle, but Mills deserves a call-up, and also he can be use as a trade bait when the trade deadline comes. A few successful start later, he may be the key to a Patterson deal that will net the Jays some useful long-term asset back.

  18. While I wouldn’t yell as loud as Michael (dude, it’s 2011, turn the caps lock off), I agree that it reminds me a lot of Doc’s early struggles.

    Which reminds me – someone ship Drabek off to train with Doc in the off-season. I’m not one to talk (at least, not until I get my 5K times down), but the dude looks a bit… large… for his frame.

  19. Halladay had the worst ERA in the history of baseball before he got sent down. There are plenty of better comparisons.

  20. It should be pointed out that Doc was sent down to fix his mechanics. With Drabek, his problems are with his emotions.

    The PCL will help provide the challenge he needs since it’s a hitter friendly league as opposed to the pitcher-friendly Eastern League. Drabek will have to learn to deal with allowing hits/homeruns. He needs to learn that he can’t pitch a perfect game each time out. He just needs to give his team a chance to win each outing by giving them quality starts.

  21. Wow I feel like a dick.

    @Michael F: You link to a tutoring organization but you speak all in caps? Is this your attempt at teaching irony?

    @Atomic Frog: Come on. It’s Stewart. StewarT. It’s bad enough that people can’t spell our GM’s name right, but it’s a common seven letter name. I can’t wait to see someone have an issue with Cecil.

  22. If memory serves, I think they sent Halladay down several times. After his second game which was 1 out from a no hitter the Jays had HUGE expectations for him. The guy ended up being a complete basket case and went all the way back to single A and saw a sports therapist. I think they almost waived him.

    From what I have read, this is a good thing and part of his development. Drabek will be fine when he better understands how to harness his emotions (like Doc) and how to pitch in the mlb.

    They also need to see what they have in Stewart. Good move.

  23. Can we please, please, please stop comparing any promising young pitcher who gets sent down to Halladay? Seriously, how many promising young pitchers have ever been sent down? And how many of them came back up as Roy Fucking Halladay?

    If Drabek turns out to be Kyle Drabek, decent #2 starter, that’s pretty good.

    • Can we please, please, please stop comparing any promising young pitcher who gets sent down to Halladay? Seriously, how many promising young pitchers have ever been sent down? And how many of them came back up as Roy Fucking Halladay?

      If Drabek turns out to be Kyle Drabek, decent #2 starter, that’s pretty good.


  24. @Spiggy – Nails. Thank you.

    Also Parkes, nice intro on the Daedalus post.

  25. @Drew

    The issue isn’t whether or not Mike believes he should or shouldn’t have been sent down. The issue is that whenever a caller makes a legitimate point Wilner, in his high-horse, douche-baggery sort of a way, will shoot down the guy’s point by attacking the straw man, all while ignoring the crux of the guy’s point.

    Sunday/Monday he was positive Drabek needed to stay in the majors to fix himself. Tonight he’ll be positive the Blue Jays made the right decision in sending him down (but anyone who suggested as much on Sunday was wrong). And so it goes…

    • Tonight he’ll be positive the Blue Jays made the right decision in sending him down.

      That’s the part I don’t agree with. I don’t think he’s quite the companyman/whore his detractors make him out to be.

  26. I don’t think anyone is saying Drabek is the next Halladay. It is way too early in his development to assess whether he will be an ace, an average pitcher, or out of baseball in 5 years. The Halladay example seems to be used to say that most pitchers, even the most dominant ones, have had struggles when they first started in the mlb. The example is also used as an arguement to those who say that the Drabek is a piece of shit and that trade for him was brutal.

    Snider’s problems have been compared to Delgado’s initial problems in the league. No one was saying he was the next Delgaldo, only that being sent down is not unusual.

  27. I don’t understand how he’s just stopped throwing the hook. Wasn’t it supposed to be his best pitch?

  28. @gosensgo: The bigger concern for me (Drabek’s only 23: hopefully he’ll be OK with some time, a lot of young guys go through this) is Brandon Morrow deciding he’s a two pitch pitcher all of a sudden. So far this year: 67.7% FB (93.6 mph), 23.8% SL (87.3 mph), 4.5% CH (88.4 mph), 4.1% CB (79.6 mph). For comparison: last year: 58.4% FB (93.4 mph), 15.3% SL (86.9 mph), 14.1% CH (87.6 mph), 12.2% CB (81.0 mph). He had a much better mix of pitches last year. He’s got to find some way to work the changeup and especially the curveball (due to the separation in velocity from his other pitches) into the mix more often otherwise hitters are just gonna sit on that fastball.

    I know he’s been yanked around a lot, but maybe somebody should put the bug in his ear that two pitch pitchers generally end up in the bullpen. Last year he was reasonably effective the first two times through the order (.669 OPS/.694 OPS) which shows he was able to adjust well to the hitters’ adjustments. This year he’s blown away the hitters the first time through the order and they’ve figured him out the second time through (.496 OPS/.774 OPS), which is (I hate to say it) more the profile of a dominant closer type of pitcher than a top of the rotation starter. I have no idea why he’s gotten away from what made him effective last year, but if he keeps it up, I’m afraid it’s not going to end well.

  29. @Tom Jackson

    I feel like this year’s Morrow is last year’s first half version of himself with better control. His K:BB ratio fine, its just everybody’s hitting him. (He does seem to throw a lot of pitches per AB too without giving up the walk too often) He’s supposed to be a good starter because of his stuff, but so far this year he’s not fooling anyone. Its like he forgot what he learned in the second half of last season.

    A pitcher giving up lots of runs without walking a ton is very concerning.

  30. Morrow has one of the best FIPs in baseball, he’s fine.

  31. @Fullmer_Fan: If he wants to be that top of the rotation starter that we all believe he can be, he’s gonna have to bring more than two pitches on a consistent basis. How many aces in history have had a two pitch arsenal? I doubt it’s more than a handful, if there are any. Perhaps the reason he’s more susceptible to the big inning this year is that hitters only have to make adjustments after the first time they see him, because after that they seem to be sitting dead red and they aren’t missing at the moment.

  32. Hey Kyle,

    Youth has it’s strengths and weaknesses body language and temper can be controlled, the opposition is working u to fail u are stronger than this


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