The Phillies hoped Zach Eflin would build upon a so-so rookie season, but his second year in the majors wasn’t any better.
Eflin, being a first round pick by the Padres and eventually acquired by the Phillies from the Dodgers in the Jimmy Rollins deal, should have started the year with lofty expectations, but with a below-average 2016 campaign, Eflin role was to eat up innings at the back end of the rotation once Clay Buchholz went down with an injury.
Eflin started out the season with a number of strong outings, and he looked like he was developing into the first round talent the Phillies traded for. Through his first five starts, he posted a 2.81 ERA, allowing just 10 runs in 32 innings. During this period, he walked only four batters, including three in his first outing. His stuff looked good and he was pitching to contact and getting batters out.
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However, his production dropped off completely after these first five starts, with his pitching on a steep decline and ERA on a steep incline. In his final three starts in the month of May, he allowed no less than seven runs in each of his starts on no less than nine hits. His ERA skyrocketed almost four points to a 6.13. He was promptly sent down to Lehigh Valley, where he experienced elbow problems and only made a total of three starts.
When he was called back up to the majors in early August, his ERA was a clear indicator of his performance, as his 6.13 grew slightly to a 6.16 over the course of three starts. In a loss to the Giants in which he allowed six runs on seven hits over five innings, he exited with shoulder discomfort and was subsequently placed on the DL, ultimately ending his season.
While Eflin showed flashes of first round talent, his overall performance in 2017 was comprehensively disappointing. In his first few starts, the potential he exhibited raised expectations for the remainder of the season. He proceeded to reduce those expectations and will now be fighting for nothing more than a spot on the back end of the rotation coming into 2018. Injury riddled and streaky at best, Eflin’s 2017 campaign seems to prove that he simply cannot be relied upon to produce strong innings as a legitimate starter in a major league rotation.
After another disappointing season, it’s hard to see Eflin getting any real chance in the rotation next year barring another slew of injuries. At this point, it’s hard to see him as any more than a fill-in.