Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Leaving Las Vegas? Not Likely

By chance last night, we noticed that Kyle Drabek would get the call to start the Las Vegas 51's game versus the Sacramento River Cats. Given the perpetual fixation on the future among Jays fans these days, we dialed up the game to see what the young pitcher had to offer should he merit a September call-up.

It took about 15 minutes to realize that Kyle Drabek probably isn't getting that call.

Drabek had an okay first inning, giving up a homer to Oakland farmhand Chris Carter. It seemed at some times as though he wasn't getting calls at the top of the zone, but we can't remember a pitcher who has excelled by living up there for any amount of time.

By the second frame, though, Drabek's delivery began to unravel, as he looked to be exerting a lot of extra effort throwing across his body. A soft single was followed by a walk, then a botched 3-6-1 double play in which Adeiny Hechavarria threw high and Drabek hit the ground after reaching to make the catch.

From there on, it was a scene from which you wanted to avert your eyes. Another soft single, then three consecutive walks with Drabek's delivery becoming increasingly erratic and almost random from pitch to pitch. He uncorked a wild pitch. His limbs flew about on each delivery like a shaken sock monkey.

The third inning started with a tough play to Hechavarria, who rushed a throw on what would be ruled a single. Once again, Drabek looked frazzled, loading the bases so that they could be cleared by Quadruple-A infielder Wes Timmins (who?) with one swing of the bat. Escaping the inning was modest achievement.

Drabek's final line: 3.0 IP, 8 hits, 9 runs (all earned), 4 BBs, 4 Ks, with a wild pitch and two homers. Frankly, Drabek was outpitched by teammate Jason Lane, a 1B/DH, who came in to toss two shutout innings with just one hit.

None of this is to write off Drabek. As we noted on our Twitter feed throughout the outing, he may be at the end of his physical rope at this point in the season. (Though that doesn't explain the track record of bad outings throughout his Triple-A assignment.)

In the end, we were left wondering if Drabek is just too gassed to maintain a consistent delivery, or if he's never developed that skill. Moreover, we'd be shocked if the Jays were to call on his services next week after the rosters expand, unless it were to get him more face time with the pitching coaches in Toronto.

Too Much Glove Love for Adeiny?
As mentioned above, Hechavarria did not overwhelm us in the way that he has others with his defense. (And believe us when we tell you that we were open to be wowed.) The allegedly slick-fielding Cuban made three bad throws and dropped an easy grounder, scuttling what should have been an easy double play.

Granted, this is our first opportunity to watch him on something other than YouTube clips, so you can apply a shiny, yellow "Small Sample Size" warning sticker on this observation. And we'd also note that his reactions off the bat look pretty great, which makes us think that he'll get to plenty of balls. We just hope he works on setting his feet a bit better on throws over his full season in Triple-A next year.

One last observation on Hechavarria: He plays bigger than his body. He may look small and wiry, but he's by no means a scrappy, slap-hitter. Imagine having Otis Nixon taking cuts like Edgar Martinez, and you might have something close to Adeiny.

Twisting Roads Through the Minors
We liked the cut of his jib, and we knew Manny Mayorson's name rang a bell for us, so we looked him up mid-game. Turns out, he's been with the Jays's system for most of the past 11 years, making his professional debut as a 17 year-old in 2000 with the now-defunct Medicine Hat Blue Jays. Among Mayorson's teammates that year was an 18 year-old Dustin McGowan, who scuffled to a 6.48 ERA and 2.04 WHIP.

Along the way, Mayorson made stops in Auburn, Charleston, Dunedin and New Hampshire in the Jays system, before spending a year and change in the Marlins' system. He returned to the Jays in 2009, and has played the past two seasons in Vegas. With the ability to play around the infield and OBPs of .362 and .370 over the past two Triple-A seasons, we wouldn't mind seeing Mayorson get a shot at cracking the big leagues to play the Mike McCoy role next year. (Maybe that's overly sentimental. Still.)

Also taking an odd path through the Jays system is backup catcher Luis Hurtado, who entered the game to give Ryan Budde a break. The 22 year-old Venezuelan has now caught for Low-A Vancouver and Lansing, High-A Dunedin as well as the Triple-A 51's, but has played a grand total of 12 games across all four levels. Where it gets weird though is that Hurtado played a total of just five games last year (at Low-A Auburn), and just 13 games across three levels the preceding year. Is Hurtado an emergency option who is brought out only when all other receivers are indisposed? There must be a story to this.

A Quick Thought on the Big Club
To bookend the post, we'd underscore Ricky Romero's grace under pressure tonight. Though he fell behind 2-0 after two batters, we loved how Romero continued to pitch aggressively and throw strikes while maintaining his composure.

Though his last few outings have not been as stellar as much of the past month, we've been impressed by Romero's ability to hang in through some tough innings and continue to pitch calmly and with purpose. While his emotions seem to get taken out on his cap and glove or on the dugout upholstery in between innings, his delivery remains solid and steady, even when he doesn't seem to have his best stuff.

The whole discussion of who is an "Ace" is a little tiresome, but we're definitely getting accustomed to having Romero's turn come up when the Blue Jays need a win. (Now if only he could do this against the Red Sox...)


Peter DeMarco said...

I only want one Mike McCoy type player on the Jays at any point in time. That means if McCoy is the guy next year, then I don't want to see any of John MacDonald, Manny Mayorson, Darin Mastroianni, etc. with the Jays.

That being said, if the Jays have to pay McCoy $1 dollar over the league minimum, going with Mayorson may be the better option.

Highlife said...

I think they should just shut down Drabek for the season. At this point he's a headcase, and needs time to decompress and regroup.

Unless the goal is to try and completely and utterly break him before starting over from scratch. In which case, they're almost there.

Tao of Stieb said...

Peter: I'd agree. I think I was being a little too cute in suggesting that Mayorson could be that 28th man on the roster. He sports a sub-.400 slugging, so the bat gets knocked out of his hands fairly often.

Highlife: I think the idea that Drabek is a head case has been overstated. I think he's been able to get hitters to swing out of the zone throughout his minor league career, so maybe he just hasn't made the adjustment. He had never pitched at AAA before this year, so maybe there is some learning to do. But I don't write this off as a character flaw.

Highlife said...

I don't think it's a character flaw--I think it's a combination of both physical and mental exhaustion that is overwhelming his ability to learn anything.

That outing you saw last night has happened all season long to varying degrees. If he hasn't learned anything by getting shelled by now, another few starts this season isn't going to suddenly flick a switch.

King_Cat said...

For some bubble bursting, compare Mayorson's minor league numbers to Mike McCoy's

Truth is Mike McCoy is a pretty darned good ball player who is a victim of the options game.
The guy has a better OBP than Aaron Hill, John McDonald or Kelly Johnson. Stattistically, he's basically a young Marco Scutaro which is not a bad thing to have in your organization by any means.

Peter DeMarco said...

I'm not so sure King_Cat, Mike McCoy's minor league numbers were pretty awful up until his 27th birthday, which is eerily similar to Manny Mayorson.