In an interview with FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi earlier this week, new Blue Jays manager John Farrell didn’t dismiss the possibility that Kyle Drabek could eclipse 200 innings in his rookie season.
“You can look at the (innings) progression he’s already gone through to this point,” Farrell said of Drabek, whose father, Doug, is the former Cy Young Award winner. “What it’ll come down to now is his efficiency in games. When you look at the competitive nature of the person, and you know that the talent and personal side align, this is a very exciting and bright young prospect.
“You’re talking about someone who loves to compete and doesn’t back away from challenges. That’s his wiring and his makeup.”
Drabek, who was the centerpiece in the Roy Halladay trade, made his major league debut last September after compiling a 2.94 ERA over 162 innings with Double-A New Hampshire. He threw an additional 17 innings with the Blue Jays down the stretch, posting a 4.76 ERA and 12/5 K/BB ratio over three starts. Drabek, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007, tossed 158 innings in 2009 and 179 innings last season, so 200 innings isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Of course, none of this talk will matter if Drabek struggles to adjust at the big league level. While the 23-year-old right-hander was recently ranked as the organization’s No. 1 prospect by Baseball America, his command has been shaky at times in the minors. He’ll also be pitching in what could be the toughest division in baseball, so there will likely be some bumps in the road.
Farrell has called Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil and Brandon Morrow the only locks for his starting rotation, but Drabek will likely beat out Jesse Litsch, Scott Richmond, Marc Rzepczynski and Jo-Jo Reyes for one of the final two spots during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.
Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.
Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.
It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”