Phillies 2018 season preview: Starting pitcher Zach Eflin

jtown
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 28: Zach Eflin #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the third inning during a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park on May 28, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 28: Zach Eflin #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the third inning during a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park on May 28, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

Zach Eflin has dealt with injuries his entire major-league career with the Phillies. Can he finally find some consistency in 2018?

When the Phillies traded Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers back in 2014, it was the beginning of what has become an arduous rebuilding process. It was a move that needed to be made with his career nearing its end, and the hope was that one of Zach Eflin or Tom Windle could be a major-league contributor in a few years.

Three-plus years later, Philadelphia has not gotten much out of the Rollins trade. Windle, who was a fringe rotation prospect, has not moved above Double-A since being traded and is likely bound to being minor-league bullpen fodder. However, Eflin projected to be a mid-rotation starter at the time.

Despite the potential Eflin showed as a minor-leaguer, it has not translated to the majors. In 22 career major-league starts, he has a 5.85 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 2.28 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and -0.6 wins above replacement.

More from That Balls Outta Here

Eflin has had stretches in his career where he has looked pretty good. In seven starts between June 19 and July 22 2016, Eflin had a 2.08 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. In Eflin’s first five starts last year, he allowed 10 earned runs, striking out 17 batters and walking four.

On the other hand, sandwiched around those stretches of success are poor outings and plenty of injuries. His 2016 season was cut short by a long-term knee injury that ultimately required surgery on both knees. After his first five starts last year, Eflin allowed seven or more runs in his next three before being sent down to Triple-A. He then suffered an elbow strain that caused him to miss a month.

After returning to the majors and making a few more starts, he left a start early Aug. 18 due to shoulder discomfort that eventually landed him on the 60-day disabled list.

Coming into this year, the last two spots in the rotation are wide open for the taking unless the team makes a trade or signs someone. Eflin is among several young starters competing for those two spots. Even if he doesn’t wind up winning one, he should be back in the majors at some point as injuries take their toll. Will Eflin finally be able to find some consistency and avoid injuries this year?

Eflin entered spring training significantly heavier, gaining 22 pounds of muscle over the offseason. He said it was almost exclusively in his legs, and he felt like he was pitching on “sticks” last year after his knee surgeries the year prior. Eflin says this newfound leg strength helps ease pressure off his upper body: [quote via Todd Zolecki of MLB.com]

More from Phillies News

"“I tell you what, it feels better throwing my fastball right now,” Eflin said. “Last year and the year before I kind of compensated for things I had to do to get the ball to the glove. This year I’m just going out and pitching. I’m really excited about that, being able to go out pain-free and healthy and focus on pitching alone.”"

Aaron Nola did something similar last year, adjusting his pitching motion to use his legs more effectively.

This increased his fastball velocity and propelled him to the next level as a pitcher. There is a chance Eflin could do the same thing.

Eflin’s projections for 2018 are not favorable due to his poor career numbers. He is projected by Baseball Prospectus to log 48 innings, making 6 starts (eight innings per start?) with a 5.25 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 40 strikeouts, 16 walks, and -0.1 wins above replacement.

Next: Middlebrooks injury leaves void on Phillies bench

If Eflin continues to struggle with injuries and inconsistency, he will be overtaken by other pitchers in the organization. Although, if his newfound leg strength can bring some success on the mound, he may finally reach that mid-rotation starter projection given to him as a prospect.

facebooktwitterreddit