Opening Day is finally here! You know the clichés associated with this afternoon. Hope springs eternal for Philadelphia Phillies fans, as every team has the exact same record, and everyone has a chance to contend.
In the spirit of the kind of “undying optimism” that only comes to every fanbase once a year, here are four overly optimistic predictions for the 2021 Philadelphia Phillies.
1. Zach Eflin finally breaks out
It feels like every year Zach Eflin is tapped as the trendy pick to be the breakout Phillies player. Then, every season he gets a bit closer but doesn’t quite put it all together. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think 2021 will be the year he finally does, though.
Eflin is entering his prime, turning just 27 next month, but has improved his ERA year over year in each of the last three seasons — down to the lowest of his career last season. In 2020, he stuck batters out in droves, posting a career-best K/9 of 10.68 while seeing his fastball velocity tick upwards — from 94.2 in 2019 to 94.9 in 2020, according to FanGraphs.
Eflin has been trending in the right direction for a while now. While he had the best year of his career during a shortened season, he’s clearly getting closer. I think this is the year Eflin can put the pieces together and become a really good middle-of-the-rotation starter.
The Phillies don’t need Eflin to be an ace. That’s what they have Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler for. They do, however, need him to strike guys out and provide quality innings. He should be able to do that in spades this season.