Philadelphia Phillies: 3 players who need 2021 breakout year

Roman Quinn #24 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Roman Quinn #24 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /
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Zach Eflin #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

1. Zach Eflin

The starting rotation behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler remains a question for the Phillies, with Zach Eflin likely the lead candidate for third in the order, without any offseason additions.

With a declining Jake Arrieta out the door, an inconsistent Vince Velasquez, and Spencer Howard entering only his second season in the majors, Eflin is among the better starting pitcher options currently on the team.

Eflin had a career year in 2020, with a personal-best 3.97 ERA and 1.271 WHIP — both third-best among Phillies starters. His .667 win-loss percentage (4-2 record) tied Wheeler for best on the team, while he had the second-most strikeouts — 70, compared to Nola’s 96. Eflin also led the team with a 4.67 strikeouts to walks ratio. While it may seem Eflin already had a breakout season, it was a limited improvement to his 4.13 ERA and 1.347 WHIP in 2019 — a season he ended with a 10-13 record.

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Pitching is key to a team’s success. Last season, the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and Chicago Cubs each had three starting pitchers with a sub-3.00 ERA, while the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals each had two starters. Those teams made up the top-five seeds in the eight-team postseason, which the Phillies failed to make by one game. Pitching was also the story for the surprise Washington Nationals World Series win in 2019, led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

The Phillies could use a third pitcher to perform at a similar level to Nola and Wheeler. Given their bullpen struggles, they could also use starters who can provide length. Eflin has five career complete games — including three in the last two seasons and three career shutouts. His complete-game shutout in 2020 was seven innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, in the first of a doubleheader.

Eflin has consistently pitched for length in his career, going six or more innings in half of his 84 starts. A breakout season from him could go a long way for the Phillies, establishing three notable arms in the starting rotation.

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