The Philadelphia Phillies take on the Miami Marlins in South Florida, and a rookie righty could play a key role for the Phils.
Coming up in a Phillies system stacked with pitching talent, Zach Eflin was overshadowed by other top pitching prospects such as Jake Thompson, Mark Appel, and Franklyn Kilome. However, after finding his stride in the majors, Eflin has shone in his own regard.
Eflin’s debut was less than ideal; the righty faced off against the Blue Jays, one of the most dominant lineups in baseball, and had his mettle truly tested. He allowed three home runs and nine runs altogether before being removed after just 2.2 innings.
Since then, Eflin has really turned himself around. In the seven starts after his debut, Eflin has just a 2.08 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. His 0.8 fWAR in the last 30 days is second among all Phillies pitchers behind only Jeremy Hellickson.
Friday night against the Pirates, Eflin threw a masterful shutout, needing just 100 pitches to complete the game. By Game Score (v2) standards, only Vincent Velasquez‘ 16-strikeout April masterpiece was a better start for the Phillies this year.
With two complete games already under his belt in just eight starts, Eflin has wowed many in Philadelphia, including his manager Pete Mackanin.
Eflin has had such success even without overpowering opposing hitters. Eflin has only a 4.65 K/9, ranking 18th on the Phillies out of 20 pitchers. Opposing hitters whiff on Eflin’s slider and curve on only about 30% of their swings.
In addition, Eflin, who was a sinkerballer for most of his career in the minors, has used it less often since starting to focus on his four-seamer in the last calendar year. He has used his sinker about 18% of the time since joining the Phillies club this year. This has resulted in just 38.3% of his batted balls resulting in grounders compared to 47.2% in his minor league career.
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Rather, Eflin has found success by using his command to prevent batters from squaring up on his pitches. More than 52% of pitches batters put in play only go for medium contact against Eflin.
Despite 40.1% of contact resulting in fly balls, he’s allowed only 5.1% of fly balls to go for home runs after his debut start, an “excellent” rate according to Fangraphs.
Eflin also has given up a limited amount of free passes, walking just 3.9% of opposing batters, ranking fourth among all major-league pitchers with 50 or more innings pitched.
Despite never being a nationally respected prospect, Eflin has found his way to success in the major leagues. The more he succeeds in the pinstripes, the easier it will be to see him in the Phillies rotation in the long-term.