Starting Pitcher Zach Eflin
Trading for Clay Buchholz and retaining Jeremy Hellickson prevented any of Philadelphia’s younger pitchers who started 2016 in the minors from seizing a spot in the starting rotation in 2017. Instead, pitchers like Jake Thompson, Ben Lively, and Zach Eflin will all return to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to start off the season.
As a whole, Eflin’s major-league debut was rough. In 11 games, he managed a 5.54 ERA, 1.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 1.33 WHIP. Eflin also struggled with the long ball, giving up a home run on 13.5% of fly balls allowed.
Eflin’s rookie season was cut short due to injury as he dealt with patellar tendinitis in both knees. He underwent surgery this offseason to repair both of his knees. Elfin came back to camp and said he felt great before being held out after knee soreness re-emerged. He has since returned to the field, pitching in a couple minor-league games. His health remains a question, but for now, it seems like Eflin is set to start the year with the IronPigs.
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Eflin showed enough to like in 2016 to warrant some optimism. He threw two of Philadelphia’s three complete games, one of which was a three-hit shutout against the Pirates. In the other, Eflin allowed just one run on six hits to the Braves.
If you exclude Eflin’s debut – the Blue Jays monster offense shellacked him for nine runs – and his last few starts where the injury started to re-emerge, Eflin was extremely effective. Between June 19 and July 22, Eflin walked just 2.8% of batters, posted a 2.08 ERA, and opposing hitters had a .205 batting average. In that seven-game stretch, Eflin showed he can pitch well at the major-league level.
If and when Eflin does make it back to the majors this year, he will definitely be someone to watch for. He pitched very well at times in 2016 and his 2017 could be a repeat of those successful outings.