Phillies Zach Eflin pushing to keep his job in 2020
The Phillies pitchers have struggled this year, but Zach Eflin is finishing strong.
Going into the 2019 season the Phillies went all-in on Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, and Vince Velasquez to round out the rotation. For the most part, all three have disappointed and been relegated to the bullpen at one time or another.
Of the three, Eflin has at least shown some improvement late in the year to keep his starting job in 2020, even if it’s as the number four or five starter.
According to ESPN, Eflin has made a big change in his pitch selection, which has led to much better results. Through his August 10 start, Eflin had a 4.49 ERA and threw his 4-seam fastball 40 percent of the time.
Since August 17, Eflin has thrown more sinkers and cut the use of his fastball down to 22 percent. The result has been 11 percent more groundballs and only a two percent drop in strikeouts.
Eflin has gone at least five innings in four of his last five starts since August 17 and held the Braves to one run Wednesday night in Atlanta. During the 4-1 win, Eflin forced 12 ground balls and only two fly outs with five hits, four strikeouts, two walks, and one unearned run.
Wednesday was the first time since his complete game shutout on May 11 that Eflin allowed no earned runs in at least seven innings.
Jayson Stark told 97.5 The Fanatic he expects the Phillies to add at least two starting pitchers this offseason, one via trade and the other in free agency. That would leave one spot for several players to compete for, depending on who is moved this offseason.
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Velasquez, Pivetta, Enyel De Los Santos, Ranger Suarez, and Cole Irvin each had opportunities to secure starting jobs this year. Jason Vargas and Drew Smyly likely won’t return after a brief stint in Philadelphia.
Suarez has at least looked competent as a reliever with no runs allowed in his last 12 games and a 2.70 ERA since August 1.
If the Phillies add a free agent, Stark predicts it won’t be a superstar (Gerrit Cole, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Madison Bumgarner) and more likely a second-tier free agent (Cole Hamels, Jake Odorizzi). If the trade addition is someone like Robbie Ray, the Phillies can balance the rotation with the righty Eflin, assuming he’s not part of any deal.
General manager Matt Klentak told reporters he doesn’t expect pitching prospect Spencer Howard to begin 2020 in the big leagues, though Howard projects to make his debut sometime next year.
The Phillies front office will have a lot of things to consider this offseason, but if Eflin continues down this current path of success, he’ll push for a starting job in 2020.