He pitched well in Extended Spring Training earlier this season too and he got promoted to high-A Tampa back in May, but adjusting to professional ball wasn’t all that easy for Drozd and it soon caught up to him.
“I would say the playing every day,” Drozd said about his toughest adjustment to the professional level. “You hear about it and it seems like it’s a great idea- it seems fun when you’re a kid. But when you actually start doing it, you realize it’s a grind especially for months after months that you’re playing.”
He struggled in the six games he pitched in Tampa. His ERA jumped up to 4.91 and his WHIP nearly doubled, and he was sent back down to Extended Spring Training. And now Drozd finds himself adjusting again and improving with the Staten Island Yankees.
“I got to work with a great group of coaches down in Tampa and that transferred straight up to here,” Drozd said about his transition to the New York-Penn League. “We get along well and it’s been a great experience so far.”
Just like he was in his debut season in the Gulf Coast League a year ago, he's been lights out for Staten Island. His ERA is once again under 1.00 [0.95 to be exact]] and so is his WHIP ratio [0.95]. And according to the pitching coach, Butch Henry, the instruction has been helping him get back to doing his thing on the mound.
“Jonny has been one of our go-to guys out of the bullpen when we need outs in high leverage situations. We are very comfortable giving the ball to him,” Henry said. “He does the little things well. Je’s deceptive and we like to give him the ball in situations where the game is on the line.”
A tall and towering hurler on the mound, at first glance it would seem power would be his game. However, it's his four-pitch mix, especially coming out of the bullpen, that has helped him find success.
“My go to pitch would have to be my changeup,” Drozd said. “It’s kind of the thing that has got me out of a jam in all of my outings so far. It's what I go to get back ahead of counts. It’s the one pitch that I have the most faith in.”
In fact, his fastball only clocks in around 86-87 miles per hour. However, it's his offspeed pitches that make him so effective.
"He can throw a slider in any count and gets lots of swings and misses,” Henry said. “He’s very deceptive, he’s unorthodox, [and] he throws strikes.”
Though he doesn't throw particularly hard it's tough to ignore the success he has maintained through his first two professional seasons. It would appear, especially with the sub-1.00 ERA he has posted against short-season league batters over the course of two years, that Drozd is ready for the next challenge.
“That’s a decision that’s way above my pay grade,” Henry said. “I think he’s doing very well here and that decision is made by other people, not me.”
It remains to be seen if Drozd can duplicate the success he's had thus far at the higher levels. Working hard and trusting the Yankees organization is the only thing the Drozd can do while waiting for his opportunity.