When the Blue Jays traded longtime ace Roy “Doc” Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies, they gave a crystal clear signal to the rest of the league. We are rebuilding, but we want a core to form a perennial contender, they said. The trade netted the Jays outfielder Michael Taylor (who was subsequently flipped to the Oakland Athletics for Brett Wallace), and Travis D’Arnaud, a catcher who looked able to provide stability to the position in a few years, which has been a major problem in the organization’s past. However, neither of these men were considered key components of the deal. The centrepiece of the deal – the part that made the trade click – was a right-handed pitcher named Kyle Drabek.
Kyle Drabek was considered by many to be the best pitching prospect in the Phillies’ organization. He comes from strong pedigree, being the son of 1990 NL Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek and while hdoesn’t project to be quite as talented as his father, he is a valuable pitcher in his own right. Many scouts predict that he will be a #2 starter on a contending team if he can stay healthy (Tommy John surgery, missed 2008) and in view of his age, he could become even more.
Drabek is healthy now and pitching in Double-A for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Jays’ affiliate. However on the Fourth of July 2010, Drabek had a performance that had to make fans wonder, “Will he be in New Hampshire very long?” Drabek threw the first nine-inning no-hitter in Fisher Cats history (a seven-inning no-hitter was accomplished by a Fisher Cat several years ago), blanking the New Britain Rock Cats 5-0 while striking out three and walking two. He recorded another 13 outs on the ground and only allowed three line drives. A few more groundballs would have been nice, but overall the outing was extremely solid for Drabek, easily the best of his career.
However, the dominance did not end there. Five days later he went into Binghamton and shutout the Mets over six innings, fanning five and walking one. This extended Drabek’s scoreless streak to 19 1/3 IP. His record improved to 9-8 while his ERA fell to 3.03.
The only thing keeping Drabek in AA right now is Las Vegas’ nature as a severe hitter’s park. a few more starts like this though, and Drabek will force the Jays’ hand, with an eye on a rotation spot in mid-2011.