Most Milwaukee Brewers fans have never heard of Oliver Drake. He was a 43rd round draft pick. He’s spent the last three seasons shuttling between Baltimore and Norfolk. He’s already in his age 30 season. He might end up being a key cog in the Brewers bullpen by the end of the season.
Drake was acquired from Baltimore for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Part of a flurry of moves between the Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers that saw reliever Damien Magnifico dealt for an International Signing Bonus Slot. Drake may not have The Magnificent One’s ceiling, but his usefulness to a Major League bullpen is clear.
Drake made his first appearance for the Milwaukee Brewers in Friday night’s 10-4 blowout of the Reds in Cincinnati. He tossed two innings, allowed two hits and one unearned run, while striking out four, but his role may change in the coming weeks.
Drake is a righty reliever who gets by with only two pitches. A four-seam fastball that sits in the 91-93 MPH range, and a splitter that’s usually around 82-85 MPH. The splitter is the pitch that Brewers fans should be interested in.
His fastball is merely a set up for his next splitter which is his true out pitch. In 2016, Drake threw his splitter 135 times and generated 29 whiffs. Those whiffs lead to a K/9 over 10.0 in 18 innings at the Major League level.
Drake has been particularly effective against lefties in his short Major League career, and owns a .259 wOBA against when facing left-handers, and fits the profile of a ROOGY, a right-handed one out guy. He will likely be used almost exclusively to handle the tough lefties in the NL Central. From Anthony Rizzo to Joey Votto, Drake will be called upon to generate swings and misses against some of the tougher left-handed outs in the late innings.
The concern with Drake has always been finding the strike zone. The movement of his split-finger fastball makes it hard to throw in the strike zone consistently, and if batters aren’t biting, the walks start.
The splitter is a deception pitch that’s meant to force a hitter moving his bat one way, while the ball moves another. It needs to end up outside of the strike zone to be effective more often than not, and that’s where Drake’s perceived control issues lie.
Consistency with his splitter is absolutely paramount to Drake’s success, but he’s proven at the lower levels that he is capable of devastating results when it’s moving well. The Brewers appear to think they’ve found a weapon in Drake for the late innings, and he may end up playing a key role as the team matures.