Phillies 2021 Season Player Preview: Zach Eflin

Zach Eflin #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Zach Eflin #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /

The Phillies have a very solid duo at the top of the starting rotation in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. To get to the postseason, a third good starting pitcher is essential. That’s where the soon-to-be 27-year-old Zach Eflin comes into play. His ability to step up, or lack thereof, could be the key to the Phillies’ level of success in 2021.

Eflin struggled for much of his first two seasons in the majors, combining for a 4-10 record and an ERA approaching six. After improving to 11 wins and a 4.36 ERA in 2018, Eflin lowered his ERA to 4.13 in 2019 — tying the league lead in complete games while posting a career-best 163 1/3 innings pitched.

Last season, Eflin took another step up, albeit in the abbreviated schedule. In 11 games, he struck out 70 in 59 innings pitched, while walking only 15. His 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings was a career high, and is an encouraging sign that his stuff is becoming more dominating.

Predicting how Zach Eflin will fare in his sixth season with the Phillies

Entering 2021, Eflin should be able to build off 2020. He’s entering what is typically the prime of a baseball player’s career. Eflin should continue to get excellent run support and the Phillies were an impressive 8-3 in Eflin’s 11 starts.

What is likely to improve is Eflin’s ERA considering a bullpen — that appears on paper to be significantly better than last year — equating to fewer inherited runs scored.

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The end of the Phillies rotation will be made up of Matt Moore, Chase Anderson, and perhaps Spencer Howard or Vince Velasquez. There is some uncertainty there, as much as whether Nola and Wheeler are sure things. Again, the key to holding the rotation together could be Eflin.

Putting it all together, I would expect Eflin to reach double-digit wins, perhaps reaching a career-best 12 or 13. Should Eflin remain healthy, he will set new career-highs in innings pitched and strikeouts. Let’s call his final totals: 13 wins, 10 losses, 180 innings, 172 strikeouts, and an ERA of 3.86.

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