The Philadelphia Phillies Top 10 Prospects countdown continues here at TBOH with the #8 player on our list.
By December of 2014, the Phillies brain trust was finally ready to turn the page on the tremendous championship run of the late 2000’s, albeit a year or two late. The first big shoe dropped that month, with the trade of iconic shortstop Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for a pair of pitching prospects.
Eflin had been property of the San Diego Padres just days earlier. The Padres sent Eflin, Joe Wieland, and Yasmani Grandal to the Dodgers in exchange for a package led by former all-star Matt Kemp. The Dodgers then flipped Eflin to the Phils in the Rollins deal.
The Friars’ supplemental first round pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft as the 33rd overall player selected out of a Florida high school, Eflin now comes in at #8 on our TBOH list, edging out Roman Quinn, who we highlighted yesterday in the series.
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Turning 22-years of age just as the 2016 season will get under way, Eflin was not a unanimous choice of our staff. Mike Azzalina left him off his personal Top 10 completely. But even Mike was close, commenting: “He was a tough one for me to leave off because I think he is close to a sure thing in the back-end of the rotation eventually.”
I had Eflin at 9th on my list, as did our Tyler DiSalle and Alexis Girardo. I’ve been a fan of Eflin since his Padres days. He possesses a low-90’s two-seam fastball, though he can turn to a four-seamer when he wants to put a little more on the ball. He also has an advanced change-up, and an emerging slider that he continues to work on improving.
Eflin also has a challenging personal background story. He has three sisters, including one who is mentally handicapped. Another sister died of leukemia in 1995 at age seven, when Eflin was still a toddler. Following her death, Eflin’s mother became an alcoholic, and his parents eventually divorced.
As he grew, baseball became Eflin’s escape from the difficult emotional atmosphere at home. In a piece last May, John Finger of CSNPhilly.com described Eflin as “Mature and unfailingly polite beyond his years.”
After high school, Eflin had scholarship offers for college, and had to weigh turning pro with San Diego against attending the University of Central Florida. Helping his family financially became the decisive factor.
He was quoted by John Conniff for MadFriars and FoxSports San Diego in September of 2014 on that decision: “I always wanted to go to college and UCF was just down the road from our house. Both sets of my grandparents live close by, my Dad works on campus so it was going to be really cool…I thought about it and talked to my family and just didn’t want to get hurt and ruin anything for the future. So we thought turning my career into a professional one would be the best outcome for all of us.”
With the Phillies, Eflin reached AA Reading last season at age 21, and more than held his own. He fashioned an 8-6 record with a 3.69 ERA and 1.208 WHIP over 23 starts, allowing 136 hits in 131.2 innings pitched. He also produced a 68/23 K:BB ratio, which highlights that Eflin pitches much more to contact than for strikeouts.
Ryan Gerstel put him in the #10 slot on his list, as did Ethan Witte. Gerstel commented that he has “average stuff, aside from an above-average changeup. But he knows how to pitch…Eflin’s game is limiting his pitch count by pitching to contact and getting guys out early in the count.”
We’re not talking about an ace here. What we are talking about is a determined young man who appears to have the mental game to succeed at the big league level. Eflin should be with the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs in 2016. With a solid season, he will make himself a back-end rotation option as soon as late summer, certainly by next spring.