The Philadelphia Phillies promoted a pitcher from their minor league system and immediately inserted him into the starting rotation.
With the Phillies early season success becoming an increasingly distant memory, the focus once again turns to the future: the prospects. Who is in line for the next call-up to the show?
With baseball rosters undergoing constant turnover, it’s becoming a more frequent occurrence to see a youngster on the mound or at the plate while watching a Major League game and find yourself asking, “Who ?”
This “Phillies Call-Up” column will become a weekly feature in which I will be focusing on the Phils’ latest minor leaguer to be promoted to Philadelphia. Who he is, how he has performed in his initial appearances, and what we might still expect.
This week’s featured player is Zach Eflin, a 6’6″, 215-pound, 22 year-old sinkerballer who made his first big league start on June 14th in Toronto. He was roughed up in 2.2 innings of work in that debut, giving up eight earned runs on nine hits, including three homers , walking three while striking out only two Jays’ batters.
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Originally drafted in the 1st round (33rd overall) of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft by the San Diego Padres, Eflin would start four games in rookie ball that summer, and then post a 7-6 record in 22 starts, with a 2.73 ERA the following year for single-A Fort Wayne.
2014 saw him pitch for Lake Elsinore (A+), finishing 10-7 in 24 starts and a 3.80 ERA. Eflin would go on to be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on December 18th, 2014 along with Yasmani Grandal, in the same deal that saw Matt Kemp exit L.A. for San Diego.
There was much speculation at the time that Eflin was going to be used by the Dodgers in another deal, and in a strange twist, he was then traded to the Fightins THE VERY NEXT DAY, along with another minor leaguer, for future Wall of Fame shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
Eflin spent last season with the Phils’ AA affiliate at Reading, going 8-6 in 131.2 innings, with a 3.69 ERA. He then made an impressive start to 2016 with AAA Lehigh Valley in which he went 5-2 in 11 starts averaging 7.2 K/9, a 0.878 WHIP, and a 5/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
That was all despite just a tick over three runs per game of support, something that he would likely experience here in Philly as well. He also had a respectable 2.90 ERA, and all this would lead to his call-up after fireballer Vincent Velasquez went down injured.
After the Toronto debacle, Eflin bounced back in his second career start with the Phillies, going 5.2 IP, giving up only two earned runs on four hits and one walk, while striking out three.
He still took the 5-1 loss as Philadelphia’s offensive anemia continues. Pete Mackanin limited the rookie to just 88 pitches, “We wanted him (Eflin) out on a positive note.”, said the Phils’ skipper.
Eflin entered his second start more confident after he went back and watched tape of the Blue Jays outing and saw where he went wrong in his big league debut, “I looked at a lot of different things“, said the young righthander, “I was kind of rushing that day. And I was just really focusing on getting back in my load, and really staying down in the zone, working quick, and getting extension.”
If Eflin’s improvement between his first two career starts is any indicator, the future seems bright for him. If he continues to make positive strides, an extended spot in the rotation is quite plausible.
Lefty Adam Morgan has struggled with command and delivery issues in recent weeks, giving up his fair share of gopher balls, which have led to some fairly early exits. It appears as though he may be the one to head back to Lehigh Valley when Velasquez returns from his rehab assignment.
Being traded for an established all-star not once, but twice, Eflin is considered one of the potentially brighter spots in the Phillies’ rebuild, especially among moves made before former GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s departure.
What the future holds for Eflin is still uncertain, as there are many question marks looming as we approach the July 31st trade deadline. But if Zach Eflin can pick up where he left off in his dominant International League campaign earlier this season, he may just become a more familiar name to Phillies fans everywhere, and maybe, just maybe, not be so easy to get mixed up with actor ‘Zac Efron’ on Google Search.